<< back to coverage

 

June 09, 2015

Here's how the Pullman community brought Method's plant to Chicago


The April opening of the first U.S.-based plant for Method Products in Chicago's Pullman neighborhood garnered great excitement and publicity. While we who live and work here often talk about the unique characteristics of Pullman that make it a “community of choice” for innovative businesses, there are valuable lessons from our experience for those seeking to build stronger, sustainable communities.

Community developers must be committed to a long-term plan. Pullman's turnaround didn't happen overnight. Rather, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and its partners in government, the community and business created a 10-year plan and are sticking to it. Without that, we never could have laid the groundwork that allowed us to compete for Method's factory.

Efforts must be comprehensive. Too often, neighborhood revitalization falls short because it focuses on only one or two aspects of community life. Developers may look only at housing and social services, as in the Sandtown area of Baltimore, where $150 million spent in the 1990s didn't produce results commensurate with the investment. In Pullman, we looked at housing and social services, recreation, retail, open space and education, with a focus on job creation. In our experience, when people have jobs, a lot of other issues dissipate.

Our plan led us to build Pullman Park, with its stores and hundreds of accompanying jobs. We started on a huge indoor recreation center, restored 40 historic rowhouses and upgraded 210 units of rental housing, whose new owners brought greater vitality to neighborhood streets. And we ensured that the Chicago Transit Authority would provide service to Pullman Park. This work attracted a company like Method, which scoured dozens of sites across several states.

The community must provide high-quality engagement. A more apt phrase is community ownership—and we encountered great success in this area. One meeting about a potential national park in Pullman attracted more than 1,000 supportive residents. We provide ongoing, frequent opportunities for input and regular reporting so that community members know we're accountable to them. It took the entire community pulling together to get results, and the community's engagement, willingness to work hard and dedication to its vision sold Method on Pullman.

Political leadership must be consistent, and government must be a reliable partner. Federal, state and local governments have numerous financial tools to aid communities in revitalization, with the promise that public investment will leverage private investment. Elected leadership in Chicago can drive revitalization efforts if they go beyond mere supporters to become advocates.

CITY INVESTMENTS

We worked with Mayor Rahm Emanuel to secure $8 million in tax-increment financing funds for Method. These funds, in turn, attracted a $30 million investment from Method, a $2 million investment from CNI and an additional $8 million investment from Gotham Green, the hydroponic produce company that will occupy the greenhouse on Method's roof. That's a total of $48 million in investment.

These funds followed a series of public investments in Pullman Park: $12 million in state and city funds that transform the long-abandoned Ryerson property into a shopping center that for the first time in decades brought fresh food, $80 million in private investment and more than 400 jobs to the community.

All told, the 6-to-1 ratio of private dollars to public investment and the creation of more than 500 new jobs for Chicago is a great example of the value of the often-maligned TIF and other needed government investments.

What hooked Method on Pullman was the community and its story of revitalization. And in Pullman, even as we cheer Method's opening, we're hard at work on the next project.

MANUEL MARTINEZ -- The 18-acre public park in front of the Method plant