As the Chicago region continues to re-open and communities recover from the impact of COVID-19, the Chicagoland Opportunity Zones Consortium (COZC) is connecting private capital to local equitable development projects and business opportunities. The COZC was launched early in 2020 to provide matchmaking, education, and technical support to attract Opportunity Zones investments that create jobs, build wealth, and promote equitable development in Chicago and suburban Cook County.
Earlier this year, the COZC partnered with World Business Chicago and Smart Growth America/LOCUS to initiate a four-part virtual deal-making series, Pathways to Opportunity. The virtual LinkUp events brought together developers, investors and area leaders to promote equitable development opportunities in Chicagoland’s Opportunity Zones. The LinkUps featured pitch presentations for several sites across Chicago and suburban Cook County and engaged audience members around potential development and investment partnerships.
From February through April, the Pathways to Opportunity events featured project opportunities in Opportunity Zones located in the Illinois Medical District (IMD), INVEST South/West communities, the Lincoln Highway Industrial Corridor, and available commercial office spaces in Pullman, Humboldt Park, and the Near West Side. Collectively, more than 400 developers, investors, lenders, government representatives, and others participated in Chicagoland’s first LinkUp series.
The initiative generated an enthusiastic response, as evidenced by event attendance, traffic to the Consortium’s website, and follow-up connections. For example, the Consortium facilitated connections with relevant IMD parties for a Milwaukee-based real estate developer expressing interest in some of the IMD sites following the event. In another example, a local entrepreneur was inspired by the INVEST South/West presentations and reached out to the Consortium for guidance on a new family-oriented business concept for a location on Chicago’s south side.
Based on the interest generated by this initiative, as well as a popular Opportunity to Action webinar series offered in Q4 2020, the Consortium and SGA/LOCUS plan to continue the partnership focused on connections and technical support in Chicagoland’s Opportunity Zones.
To view the LinkUp recordings or to watch the webinar series, visit the Opportunity Zones page on the Consortium’s website: https://chicagolandopportunity.com/opportunity-zones and follow us on our LinkedIn page.