Chicago’s The Plant as Community Development

In the Housing and Community Development clinic we often discuss a variety of community development programs. We talk about what the goal of community development is, or should be, how to achieve those goals, and what the pros and cons of the innumerable programs are. Through these conversations I've discovered all types of programs and initiatives that I had never heard of, from Tax Increment Financing to Smart Growth plans to bringing business development to underdeveloped areas.

One of the most interesting projects I've heard of during this time is The Plant. The Plant is a food business incubator located in an old meatpacking building. In an effort to create a new type of organization, The Plant has connected numerous organizations in one building with the idea of creating an environmentally friendly, one stop shop for food businesses. Located on Chicago's south side, The Plant will incorporate indoor farming, small food businesses, and a brewery.

The Plant promotes a net-zero energy, closed loop model, in which the waste created by commercial kitchens is used to generate energy. Aquaponic farming creates a symbiotic relationship to grow vegetables and fish. The goal is to show that manufacturing and growing can happen in a sustainable way. The Plant's only focus, however, is not just being environmentally friendly, nearly all the businesses will be for profit, and will create an estimated 125 jobs.

I find this idea so interesting because it's not only community development but focuses so much on the environment as well. Too much I feel that developers, and government agencies view community development too narrowly. Often it seems that people look for one problem to fix, whether it be a lack of affordable housing, a lack of grocery stores, or a lack of accessible public transportation. Here however, The Plant has created a business that will be environmentally friendly, profitable, rehabilitate an abandoned building, provide restaurants for the surrounding community, and create jobs and educational opportunities all at once.