Chicago attracting a healthy amount of investment, but all neighborhoods aren't equal

Brian J. Rogal, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Chicago attracted a lot of investment over the past decade, but how well its economy serves residents depends a lot on where they live. Between 2010 and 2020, neighborhoods where most residents are Black received a fraction of the overall investment recorded in mostly white neighborhoods, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.

The city’s glittering downtown expanded in all directions over the decade, with new apartment and office towers sprouting up in surrounding neighborhoods, but areas such as Englewood and many others across the South and West sides fared poorly, researchers from the Washington, D.C.-based think tank found. And there’s no easy explanation for why this happened, and no easy solutions, said Brett Theodos, the lead researcher.

“It’s the sum total of all the small and large decisions, personal, corporate and public, that have been made over the years,” he said. “It’s everything all rolled together.”

Census tracts with populations more than 80% Black annually attracted $7,801 in investment per household compared with $25,889 where fewer than 20% of the residents are Black. And Chicago neighborhoods with more white residents generally received more investment per household. Census tracts with populations more than 80% white attracted $32,707 per household compared with $9,372 where fewer than 20% are white.

But Chicago remains popular with investors, ranking 40th overall among the nation’s 100 largest cities, according to Urban Institute data. It brought in on average $20,450 per household each year between 2010 and 2020, below national leaders such as Washington, D.C., Denver, Seattle and San Francisco, but above others such as New York, Dallas, Houston and Minneapolis.

Chicago saw an especially healthy level of investment in the nonresidential sector including offices, manufacturing, warehouses and distribution centers. It ranked ninth among the top 100 cities, with $8,648 per employee invested on average each year.


That means Chicago has opportunities to redirect private investment to neighborhoods that need it most, according to Theodos.

“The needs are real, but Chicago has a lot to build on, and the infrastructure to deploy investment,” he said.

Government programs such as Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West plan, along with mission-driven investments by philanthropies or affordable housing developers, are already sending most of their dollars to needy areas, but it’s not enough to eliminate disparities, Theodos added.

Together, public and mission-driven investors poured $9 billion into Chicago neighborhoods over the decade, compared with nearly $200 billion spent by private investors on the city’s single-family homes and in the nonresidential sector. But if public and mission-driven investors can show new business and homes can thrive, it may convince private investors to set aside more funds for deprived areas.

“We’re going to need to see the public sector make some big bets, and hopefully catalyze market activity,” Theodos said.

©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


blog comments powered by Disqus