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Pullman’s economic growth has lowered crime, improved quality of life: report

A line of historic row houses in the Pullman neighborhood. | Ji Suk Yi/ Sun-Times

Historic row houses in the Pullman neighborhood. | Ji Suk Yi/ Sun-Times

As economic development has gone up in Pullman, crime has gone down, a new report concludes.

The report, released Tuesday, was produced by the Metropolitan Planning Council and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a not-for-profit community development organization focused on the South Side. The goal of the report was to see how the historic Pullman neighborhood is doing two years after the last such study.

Investing the area, the report found, improved residents’ quality of life. Unlike neighboring communities, Pullman has:

• Sustained job growth and labor force participation

• A drop in violent crime and homicide rate

• The ninth-highest rate of construction per capita out of all community areas in the city

• Declining poverty rates

“It’s evident that a huge part of Pullman’s story is its rich landscape of civically engaged residents and community organizations,” said Shehara Waas, who wrote the report. “[Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives] has been a big contributor to the gains that we observed, but they are not alone in their work — there are so many excellent organizations in Pullman.”

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives attracted more than $340 million in local investment and helped create nearly 1,600 jobs in Pullman, according to the report.

David Doig, president of the Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, said his group has been a part of developing many of Pullman’s new businesses, helping with infrastructure and, in some cases, selling land to other developers. His group has received more than $30 million in tax-increment-financing funds to help pay for environmental remediation and soil work, Doig said.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) said public-private partnerships Neighborhood Initiatives helped recruit have created many new jobs in the community.

Beale points to the openings of a Walmart Supercenter, a 140,000-square-foot Whole Foods distribution center, the $20 million development of U.S. Bank Pullman Community Center and Method Products’ soap factory that is also home to Gotham Greens – an urban agricultural company that grows about 500 tons of produce on the roof of the factory.

At each of those places, a portion of the employees — the percentage varies — must live nearby, Beale said.

“The last 10 years we have been aggressively trying to attract businesses and redevelop the area in order to revitalize the community,” Beale said. “If you look at all that, being able to create jobs in the community, all those things have a direct reflection” on the drop in crime.

Pullman still has violent crime, Beale said, but it has gone down as community investment has increased.

“From 2012 to 2017, we observed a 22 percent decline in violent crime in Pullman — a larger decrease than was observed for the neighboring communities” of West Pullman, Roseland and Riverdale, which were included in the study. “Though the reason for the decline isn’t certain, we speculated that the increased retail development in the community may be a contributor.”

And in the census tract that includes the Pullman Park shopping center, another Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives development, there have been no homicides since 2014, according to the report. That area, less than a mile square, is bounded by Cottage Grove Avenue, 103rd Street, the Bishop Ford Freeway, and 111th Street.

Manny Ramos is a corps member in Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of issues affecting Chicago’s South and West sides.