© Romero Cook Design Studio, a 2008 CNU Illinois Charter Award Winner
What if we reinvest in our existing communities, by rebuilding current infrastructure to support growth and development?
Instead of developing in areas that have never had development before, we could focus growth in existing communities that already have roads, water and sewer lines to support them. Homes and businesses could be more compact, near to Transportation stations, and within walking distance of commercial districts. We could invest in rebuilding and improving our roads, rail lines, and other infrastructure to support growth and overall economic development. These strategies would reduce development pressure on natural and agricultural areas, and encourage sustainable Transportation options less harmful to the environment.
This future scenario would keep our existing infrastructure and communities strong—but it will also be quite costly, and could change the character of our communities and neighborhoods as they accommodate new growth.
Policy and Investment Choices for "Reinvest"
In 2040, our communities will be significantly denser than today. Growth will be focused into existing communities, rather than low-density development in undeveloped, "greenfield" areas. In particular, communities that have experienced population and job declines in the past will be revitalized in this scenario.
This new growth will feature:
- Transit-oriented development (TOD), to focus development around public transit hubs
- Changes in school siting regulations, in order to locate schools within community centers
- Acquisition of land for public parks
- Redevelopment of currently underutilized, contaminated land (called "brownfields")
- Policies that support the preservation of agricultural land, to further direct development into existing communities
Infill development in existing communities requires supporting infrastructure, including:
- Investment in schools, hospitals, and community centers
- Extensive transportation infrastructure improvements for roads, transit, and freight
Where this reinvestment increases home values, we will pursue strategies that protect the affordability of housing, including:
- Removal of regulatory barriers to affordable housing in transit oriented development areas
- Adoption of inclusionary zoning ordinances, which require a certain amount of housing for low- and moderate-income households
The region's success in attracting and retaining businesses will be dependent on having an efficient, modern infrastructure system, particularly for the movement of goods. The region's economy will continue to have strong elements of freight, goods production, and related industries.
In addition to investment in our transportation, water, and wastewater system infrastructure, key strategies for attracting these industries include:
- Investments in telecommunications infrastructure
- Targeted export promotion efforts
- Workforce development programs, to ensure that the region has a trained workforce capable of supporting our key industries
A particular focus on reinvestment in economically distressed communities will be supported by:
- Targeting state economic incentives to selected industries
- Redeveloping brownfields in these areas
- Making infrastructure investments in these areas to drive growth
Environmental goals will be addressed primarily by focusing development into existing communities as infill. This approach will increase density, supporting the use of public transportation and non-motorized modes that are less harmful to the environment. It will also reduce development pressure on undeveloped land, and aid in the acquisition of land for new public parks.
Investments in infrastructure improvements will be the major driver of regional prosperity. These investments are used to encourage development to occur primarily in existing communities already served by public transit and transportation infrastructure, leading to a more efficient land use pattern across the region.
Development will occur at a high density near transit services, attracted by:
- Increased transit infrastructure investment along existing rail lines, and improved transit service frequency
- Zoning and development regulation changes to permit more intense transit-oriented development (TOD)
The region will continue to be the nation's freight center, supported by:
- A series of systematic freight operations and infrastructure improvements
- Workforce development activities to ensure that the region has a trained workforce in the freight industry
- Targeting state economic incentives to freight and related industries
In addition to reinvesting in the region's transit and freight infrastructure, we will:
- Improve arterial and expressway operations, located so that they do not counteract the urban design activities occurring near TOD
- Ensure efficient access to global networks, through interregional transportation (beyond airport expansions), particularly high-speed passenger rail with connections to other Midwestern cities