South Chicago | Chicago, Illinois

Claretian Associates

Two people hugging while with a paint brush in one hand

Neighborhood leaders are carrying out a plan to transform South Chicago from “the forgotten place” into a healthy community of choice.


The Challenge

South Chicago is one of 16 lakefront neighborhoods near downtown. Often mistakenly referred to as South Side, South Chicago was once known as home to the U.S. Steel’s South Works steel mill.

In 1992, the closure of the massive mill devastated South Chicago. Some 20,000 Chicagoans working high-paying jobs at the mill found themselves unemployed and unable to support neighborhood businesses.

The mill’s closure plummeted South Chicago into “the forgotten place.” It exacerbated a mass exodus of residents and businesses. Property values eroded. Blight, vacant lots and abandoned buildings followed to create an economically disconnected and depressed area.

Black, Hispanic and European immigrants who make up South Chicago’s rich diversity have borne the brunt of decades of disinvestment. Historic and systemic policies like redlining and inequities in education cut off pathways to homeownership and other opportunities for generations of South Chicagoans.

Now, revitalization is on the horizon in South Chicago. The neighborhood is a federally designated Opportunity Zone. It is also among the neighborhoods prioritized for Invest South/West, the city of Chicago’s equitable development strategy, and the South Chicago Commercial Avenue Reinvestment Plan.

Claretian Associates and its strong corps of community partners and stakeholders are driving the neighborhood’s redevelopment. Their comprehensive plan aims to transform over 700 acres of vacant land and undeveloped lakefront real estate.

An apartment building complex in South Chicago


The Plan

We’re STEEL Here: Working Together to Reinvigorate South Chicago was a finalist for The Chicago Prize. The plan reflects the community’s desire for affordable housing in livable neighborhoods. And its vision for thriving businesses and opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

Targeted initiatives aim to transform that vision into reality for South Chicagoans:

  • New and revitalized senior homes with a grocery and food services
  • Renovation of multifamily affordable homes
  • A wellness center with aquatic, office and retail space
  • An intergenerational nature play space
  • An indoor soccer arena for youth and the community
  • A workforce development café
  • Streetscape improvements to make the commercial corridor more accessible and attract new businesses

In total, the proposal will preserve and create 235 affordable homes, generate 28 full-time jobs and produce over 160 construction jobs.

“This crucial, critical investment is going to close our funding gap and make this plan come to fruition. We are so excited to bond our local, regional and federal partners with our great national partners in Fifth Third and Enterprise and make this a healthy community of choice where people can thrive.”

− Angela Hurlock, Executive Director, Claretian Associates

What Success Looks Like

Disinvestment runs deep in South Chicago. That can make it difficult to envision true recovery and vitalization.

Still, community leaders are confident new comprehensive investment by Fifth Third will allow them to realize their plan and significantly improve the overall health of South Chicago. In addition to economic development, leaders anticipate new jobs, educational opportunities and greater access to physical and mental health care.

Looking ahead to the next 25 years, leaders project that students in South Chicago schools will have higher test scores and graduation rates. Adults will earn a living wage and receive on-the-job training. Those outcomes will deter crime and drug activity.

Equity is the overarching goal. Put simply, Claretian Associates and their partners want South Chicagoans, especially the community’s Black residents, to enjoy the same quality of life available to people living in the city’s north side neighborhoods.