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Chicago, Illinois

The Problem

In 2013, a severe rainstorm in Chicago caused massive street and basement flooding, in addition to damage to businesses across the city. Chronic flooding is a particular concern on the west side of the city, where more than 6,000 households received FEMA relief after the 2013 storm. While the city government knew that additional green infrastructure could help mitigate flooding, it did not have sufficient resources to maintain new green spaces if they were built.

The Solution: Resilient Corridors

Community members collaborated with city leaders to install and maintain a variety of new green spaces, such as gardens and recreational areas, that reduce flooding in west side neighborhoods. The city worked with residents through an extensive community planning process to generate ideas, design projects, and ensure that they will be maintained by the community.

How it Works

The city worked closely with residents to identify projects that could be supported and maintained by the community.

  • The city identified corridors that were vulnerable to flooding and extreme heat and where green infrastructure would be effective and could be maintained by existing community groups.
  • The city then met with neighborhood groups and held community-wide gatherings to decide which green infrastructure projects the city should build, gather input, and refine and approve designs.
  • The city installed the new infrastructure and leased the land to community groups for 2-5 years at no cost. In exchange, community groups agreed to act as stewards of the projects and maintain the projects to specific standards. The city provided groups with a manual to guide maintenance for permeable surfaces, drains, and other elements of the new green spaces.  


The Results

The city has completed 10 green infrastructure projects on the west side of the city, which community groups have begun maintaining and using for neighborhood programming. City staff has estimated that the new infrastructure can hold more than 500,000 gallons of stormwater.

  • The Kelly YMCA worked with the city to create a multi-purpose recreational court, which includes garden beds that will grow produce for distribution at their fresh food pantry.
  • Other community groups have helped the city create a tree nursery, small parks, an adventure playground, and a garden that will serve as an agricultural training space.
  • The city has installed water gauges at some sites to monitor reduction in flooding during storms resulting from the new green infrastructure.
  • The green spaces have helped bring new life to struggling business corridors and increased the curb appeal of small businesses in the area.
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