The Chinese population is the fastest growing immigrant community in Chicago, and new Chinese immigrants continue to choose Chinatown as their first port of entry. This means that Chicago’s Chinatown is growing, while many others around the country shrink. Growth presents opportunities and challenges, many of which are outlined in the Chicago Chinatown Community Vision Plan (2015). This two-year planning project (conducted by the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, the 25th Ward Alderman Daniel Solis, and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning) identified many priorities for economic and community development in the neighborhood.
One priority addressed by the Vision Plan was the lack of available and functional green space in Chinatown. The Vision Plan called for developing green spaces that help make the neighborhood a more “livable” community. When Chinatown residents were asked how their experience in existing park space could be improved, a significant majority of respondents indicated that they would like to have a community garden in the neighborhood. Community gardens are desirable because they can support health and wellness, contribute to crime prevention, and improve urban ecosystems. Community leaders hope that a community garden will help create more “neighborhood stewards” who take an interest in making Chinatown a cleaner and safer urban space.
Another issue addressed by the Vision Plan was the lack of accessibility, particularly give the large senior population in Chinatown. Senior citizens over the age of 65 make up 18 percent of the population of Chinatown, which is much higher than the 10 percent average for greater Chicagoland. Given these demographics, strategies are needed to make Chinatown a model age-friendly neighborhood. The Vision Plan highlighted the need for streets to be easy and comfortable for pedestrians of all ages to traverse, and it called for more age friendly public spaces that would encourage residents to linger and socialize. Senior citizens face many challenges from a lack of accessible parking, to, uneven and unsafe sidewalks, to a lack of seating in the neighborhood.
This IPRO project will work toward improving the livability of the Chinatown neighborhood by focusing on placemaking and community building. This group will work with the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community to build on the walkability assessment conducted by past IPRO teams, and focus on developing design spaces that would benefit Chinatown seniors. Examples could include new signage, sidewalk seating, outdoor exercise space, pocket parks or public art.
This team will build on the stakeholder analysis and walkability analysis conducted by two previous IPRO teams. The emphasis will be on user-focused design. The IPRO team will solicit community input to develop solutions to development problems. Behavioral observation, interviews, and surveys will likely inform the design process.