Aurora’s Near East Side neighborhood vision
Picture by Justin Goh
Next time you visit Aurora, get of I-88 a little early, a few miles east of the downtown. I promise you will be pleasantly surprised. Aurora’s Near East Side neighborhood is unique in its historic homes, walkable tree-lined streets, and diverse community. As you drive in from neighboring towns to the east like Lisle and Naperville, you will see a stark change from large subdivisions, to a urban neighborhood just blocks from Aurora’s central business district and the Fox River. Home to the city’s first historic district and a strong Latino community, the Near East Side neighborhood residents see a bright future for the community, but know there are many challenges to overcome, including depreciating home values, needed job opportunities, and a lack of diverse retail options.
These opportunities and concerns were surfaced in a three-meeting process hosted by the City of Aurora, Metropolitan Planning Council, and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning in the summer of 2010. The meetings used MPC’s Corridor Development Initiative to gain input from residents on quality of life improvements and retail and housing development goals that informed the City of Aurora’s Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area (NRSA) amendment to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which was submitted last August at the end of the community process. An NRSA is a provision within HUD’s Community Development Block Grant regulations that allows cities and states to develop plans for economic development and housing needs in a targeted neighborhood. It allows for more flexibility in the use of funding. The NRSA for the Near East Side was first established in 1999 and the City wanted to improve the outcomes and effectiveness of these federal funds through the ammendment.
During the meetings, over 80 residents surfaced priorities such as creating new community destinations, such as a library or health center, a need for improved retail options, more owner-occupied housing, and improvements to the condition of existing housing. Residents also worked with volunteer architects and developers to develop concepts for future real estate development in the neighborhood. Strategies that were developed from this feedback ranged from foreclosure prevention and housing rehabilitation programs to the development of a business assistance program to provide loans, gap financing, and technical assistance for targeted businesses within the NRSA. A resounding theme that arose from the process was the need for and importance of continued and regular community engagement around revitalization efforts.
See the full results in the final report.