Pullman’s successful turnaround might be a guide to helping other areas, study says

The University of Chicago report says the effort led by U.S. Bank offers lessons for other communities.

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The 100,000-square-foot Gotham Greens greenhouse in Pullman.

The 100,000-square-foot Gotham Greens greenhouse is among several key projects in the Pullman neighborhood.

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The Pullman neighborhood’s economic revival since 2009 suggests a framework for other intense development initiatives aimed at neglected communities, concludes a University of Chicago study to be issued Thursday.

The report said U.S. Bank has invested $110 million directly in Pullman as of 2019, leading to an additional $250 million in outside capital and creation of 1,100 permanent, full-time jobs. The bank became involved in Pullman with its 2009 purchase of First Bank of Oak Park, which had a nonprofit subsidiary in Pullman. The nonprofit was converted into a new organization, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which has led the development of a 180 acre site on Pullman’s eastern end that includes the old Ryerson Steel factory.

Prepared by the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the U. of C.’s Booth School of Business, the study concludes “place-based investments” can have a positive impact, provided there’s strong financial backing and buy-in from community leaders. “Invest big — no drops in the bucket,” was the lead recommendation.

In releasing the study, U.S. Bank announced it is donating $1 million to CNI to support 40 small businesses in low- to moderate-income areas of the city’s South and West sides.

“We believe banks are in business to do three things: economic development, workforce development and community development,” said Zack Boyers, CEO of U.S. Bank’s community development unit.

“The impact of these investments in partnership with CNI and other private and public commitments have created lasting change in this historic community. It is an example of what we are striving to do in other communities across the country.”

Key projects in Pullman in recent years include a $30 million soap factory by Method, a Whole Foods distribution center, a Walmart and an industrial-scale greenhouse by Gotham Greens. Amazon is building a distribution center as well.

“Many organizations talk about the importance of community representation — really achieving it, however, requires structural commitment and thoughtful planning,” CNI President David Doig said. “At every stage of the process, the organization was in direct dialogue with the community itself. You don’t come in with a plan, you get the plan from the community.”

The study said the investments have helped Pullman increase its population while neighboring communities have registered declines. In addition, Pullman has seen twice the decline in unemployment compared with the city as a while, according to the study, which can be found at https://www.usbank.com/dam/images/newsroom/stories/Pullman2020.pdf.

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