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Phil Beckham III holding rendering of 43 Green

ETOD 101: An explainer on equitable transit-oriented development in Chicago

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How connected is your neighborhood?  

Can you get to grocery stores, shops, and other amenities easily by public transit, or do you need a car? Can you walk where you need to go?  

Is your community accessible and affordable for all people, including: 

  • Youth and seniors? 
  • Homeowners and renters? 
  • Abled and disabled? 
  • People of all races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and socioeconomic statuses? 
Senior pushing a wheeled cart across crosswalk
Senior pushing a wheeled cart across crosswalk

These are the questions and community considerations ETOD addresses. This is also what differentiates ETOD from traditional TOD, which has historically excluded minority groups from development decision-making within their own communities. 

Read more to learn more about: 

  • Why ETOD is needed in neighborhoods across Chicago  
  • The basic definition of ETOD 
  • TOD and ETOD policy work in the city 
  • Examples of successful ETOD projects 
  • Tools for developers who are interested in building ETOD sites 

Disparities in development between the South, West and North Sides

Display explaining history of redlining in Chicago
Display explaining history of redlining in Chicago

In many North Side neighborhoods, housing costs have become unaffordable for the average household, especially for Black and Brown residents. Whereas on the South and West sides, historic disinvestment and segregation mean community residents often can’t easily access the things they need in their own neighborhoods.  

While urban planning issues vary by neighborhood, ETOD can benefit every Chicagoan because our built environment is shaped through development. Depending on the approach taken – TOD or ETOD – the development process has the power to worsen or bridge gaps in equity. 

What is ETOD?

Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments affordable housing complex in Logan Square
Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments affordable housing complex in Logan Square

ETOD, which stands for  “equitable transit-oriented development,” is a framework for how to approach development in a way that helps to build more connected and equitable neighborhoods. 

Put simply, ETOD means building housing and neighborhood amenities, such as large residential complexes, grocery stores, and shops, near public transit – either train or bus stops – making it easier and faster for people to get around using public transportation.  

In comparison to its predecessor, TOD (transit-oriented development), ETOD places a greater emphasis on ensuring that the transit-oriented projects that get built are community-driven and serve community residents and that they advance equitable outcomes in housing, health care, and food access.  

In Chicago, City policy designates an ETOD as any development within a half-mile of a train station or a quarter-mile of a major bus corridor. 

ETODs are located within a half-mile of a train station or a quarter-mile of a major bus corridor
ETODs are located within a half-mile of a train station or a quarter-mile of a major bus corridor

ETOD projects come in all shapes and sizes, from single-floor commercial developments, to larger residential buildings, to mixed-use projects that include both elements.  

ETOD has a range of benefits for all communities, including:  

  • Increasing access to jobs by increasing the number of businesses accessible via public transit.
  • Reducing the cost of living for residents by making it easier and faster to get around without a car, which is much less expensive. 
  • Creating a healthier environment to live, work, and play in by encouraging a greener mode of transportation.
  • Contributing to gentle density, particularly affordable housing near transit.

The evolution of ETOD in Chicago

The ETOD project pipeline in Chicago
The ETOD project pipeline in Chicago

Chicago offered its first grants for transit-oriented development projects in 2013, providing grants to TOD projects throughout the city. However, nearly all the funded projects were located downtown and on the North Side, continuing a pattern of disinvestment long familiar to the city’s South and West Sides.  

In 2019, the City unveiled a new round of grants, this time prioritizing projects on the South and West sides. Since 2021, the City has invested over $1 billion in ETODs through grants, tax credit allocations, and other resources.  

There have also been several changes to ETOD policy in recent years, including the ETOD Policy Plan and Connected Communities Ordinance. 

Due to these funding sources and policy changes, there are now 40+ ETOD sites throughout the city. 

Example ETOD projects: What ETOD looks like in practice

The Hatchery, a food and beverage business incubator ETOD near the Kedzie Green Line station
The Hatchery, a food and beverage business incubator ETOD near the Kedzie Green Line station

ETOD comes in all shapes and sizes, from single-floor commercial developments, to larger residential buildings, to mixed-use projects that include both.   

That can look like:  

  • 43 Green, a mixed-use development that includes affordable and market rate housing units, located near the 43rd Green line station in Bronzeville. 
  • The Hatchery, a food and business incubator located next to the Kedzie Green line in East Garfield Park. 
  • Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments, a 100-unit affordable housing development built on a former parking lot near the Logan Square Blue Line station. 

Get involved in ETOD in your community

If you are a developer interested in building an ETOD, or if you are a resident or community leader who wants to learn more, visit the Elevated Chicago Resources page. 

If you would like to get in touch with Elevated Chicago directly, please use the information on our Contact Us page. 

To stay updated on the latest ETOD news, subscribe to our email newsletter and browse the Elevated Chicago blog. 

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