1. South Chicago LEED Designation 


South Chicago LEED Designation

From Pollution to Solution: LEEDing the Way in Southeast Chicago

Located at the juncture of Lake Michigan and the Calumet River, South Chicago flourished for nearly 100 years as a leading steel manufacturing site.   More than two decades ago, the local steel industry died, and community leaders took on the task of keeping the area alive without its primary economic engine.   Through their efforts, the basic character of the community has survived and residents now look forward to its revitalization as an affordable center for green development and eco-friendly enterprises.


The history of South Chicago is written in its geography and the built environment.   While all that remains of a once-mighty steel mill is a mile and a half of vacant shoreline, the community’s commercial and public buildings, places of worship, and an eclectic mix of housing stock provide evidence of cultural diversity and a rich array of services that continue to sustain residents.


Revitalization efforts are reflected along Commercial Avenue, the main business district, through banners, murals, plantings, restored facades, and a movement toward pedestrian-friendly walkways.  Vintage banks with new names, and new banks with vintage looks project a sense of future investment even in difficult economic times.  Older church steeples continue to dominate the skyline, reining-in designs for out-of-scale development.  New train stations along its portion of the Metra commuter line, plans for redeveloping the vast lakefront property that had once been the United States Steel South Works, and the relocation of US-41 (the main surface route to downtown Chicago), define a community on the move.


Community organizations have worked with NeighborSpace and Green Corps to convert vacant lots into both organic and ornamental gardens, increasing the availability of fresh produce for residents, and enhancing the landscape.   Newer buildings are models of affordable eco-friendly design.   Retrofitted older structures bear green features, such as roof gardens, solar panels, and the like.  Ultimately, South Chicago looks forward to becoming the Midwest’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design  community.

In April, 2010, the United States Green Building Council accepted South Chicago’s plan to become a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) community.   The LEED Neighborhood Development Plan was the first plan of its size (11140 acres) in the nation to earn such approval, for which new development would have to meet LEED standards.

(Photos by Kevin P. Murphy)

© Kevin Murphy & Joann Podkul Murphy 2016