COVID-19

The pandemic poses challenges and new opportunities for city planning

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

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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