UPDATE: The Bronzeville Retail District Land Use Plan was completed in August 2013.
Known as the "Black Metropolis" in the 1950's, Bronzeville flourished in culture and commerce during the early 20th century. It started declining after the elimination of the restrictive housing covenants allowed African Americans to move out of the neighborhood, often to less crowded conditions or areas providing opportunities in other parts of the city or suburbs. As a result, local businesses lost their customers to well-capitalized downtown and suburban competitors. By 2000, Bronzeville had lost more than 75 percent of its population, leaving nearly one-third of its housing stock vacant or abandoned. The neighborhood saw a resurgence in residential housing construction in the mid 1990's when home-buyers were drawn by Bronzville's less expensive homes, gracious boulevards, and proximity to downtown and the Lake. But this housing boom was not accompanied by retail investments, and today most commercial corridors are lined with boarded-up buildings or flattened empty lots.
Convinced that this area must be revitalized, the Bronzeville Alliance is now spearheading a Retail Development Initiative (RDI). CMAP's Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program staff helped the Alliance to engage the City, community residents, and other stakeholders in a planning project that resulted in the drafting of land use plan and zoning recommendations to guide strategic investment and achieve optimal configuration of retail along 43rd, 47th and 51st streets. The project built on an earlier effort by the Metropolitan Planning Council Bronzeville Task Force, that produced a report advocating for a transit-focused retail development strategy to direct investments near transit stations and on strategic nodes along the three corridors.