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COVID-19

The pandemic poses challenges and new opportunities for city planning

Natalie Moore Nov 27, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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On 75th Street in Chicago's Park Manor neighborhood, sidewalk pods were set up to encourage street life amid COVID-19. Natalie Moore
COVID-19

The pandemic poses challenges and new opportunities for city planning

Natalie Moore Nov 27, 2020
On 75th Street in Chicago's Park Manor neighborhood, sidewalk pods were set up to encourage street life amid COVID-19. Natalie Moore
HTML EMBED:
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Large neon green sidewalk pods stretch a couple of blocks in the Park Manor neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side.

This fall, as the city adjusted to the realities of COVID-19, people could sit outside, eat ribs, vegan dishes or caramel cake from nearby businesses. They could play oversized checkers and tic-tac-toe.

The pandemic has forced city residents to be less dependent on downtown for activities, explained Maurice Cox, Chicago’s commissioner for the Department of Planning and Development.

“I feel really strongly the scale of urbanism, the scale neighborhood is going to be one of the major takeaways post-COVID,” he said.

In many communities, life sheltering in place isn’t changing any time soon as restrictions on gatherings grow more strict. With COVID-19 changing the way people live and get around, city planners in Chicago see the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink urban living.

Cox says imagine if every neighborhood had its own downtown.

“Where you could go to work, where you could get your weekly needs, where you could recreate all within the geography of your neighborhood,” he said. “I think neighborhoods have the potential to be the driver of the recovery and the driver of urbanism that people want.”

What’s happening in the Park Manor neighborhood is exciting to Dawveed Scully. He’s an urban designer with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, an architectural firm. 

“Urbanism in cities is about collective energy and collective activity,” he said.

But that activity will need to be supported with meaningful investment. And historically that hasn’t happened in Chicago’s Black and Brown neighborhoods. Lynda Lopez, a manager for a local transportation advocacy group, said that concerns her.

Standing in an empty lot in a Chicago neighborhood, Lopez points out that there are homeless people camped out nearby. She said this area should be turned into affordable housing.

“Every time I go into Little Village, I cross viaducts and they’re pretty much tent cities,” she said.

This should be the focus of urbanism, she said, making sure everyone is taken care of. 

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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