A non-profit advocacy organization has published a report identifying the federally-designated Opportunity Zones in Illinois with the best potential to incentivize smart growth and deliver a triple bottom line.

Opportunity Zones are Census tracts across the United States, including Puerto Rico, where investors can get tax breaks if they invest their capital gains there. There are 135 Opportunity Zones in Chicago, and 327 Opportunity Zones in Illinois.

LOCUS measured walkability, job density, housing diversity, and distance to the nearest central business district, to create each Opportunity Zone's "Smart Growth Potential" score. LOCUS's report also measured transit accessibility, how much people pay for housing + transportation, diversity of household renters and owners, and social vulnerability to create each Opportunity Zone's "Social Equity + Social Vulnerability" (SEVI) score.

Places with high SEVI scores are those that need policies and investments “that protect vulnerable residents and business and incentivize new supply of attainable housing and commercial spaces”. Read the full report.

MAP Strategies can help clients figure out how to unlock the potential of sites within Opportunity Zones, by tying proposals to local policies and plans, as well as finding other incentives to include in a financial stack.

Map: Four of the top 10 Opportunity Zones, ranked by their “Smart Growth Potential”.

Map: Four of the top 10 Opportunity Zones, ranked by their “Smart Growth Potential”.

LOCUS listed the top 10 Opportunity Zones in Illinois based on these scores and we've mapped them all. The four in Chicago are listed below. (Numbers in bold are identifiers for Census tracts in Cook County, areas used for statistical measurements.)

  • 8410 - Area around McCormick Place Convention Center, Mercy Hospital, and the upcoming South Bridge development. Near the Cermak-McCormick Green Line station.
    Lowest scores in this group

  • 2804 - Part of the Near West Side, between the United Center parking lots and Metra tracks in the Kinzie Industrial Corridor. Includes land in walking distance to the future Damen Green Line station.
    Highest "Smart Growth Potential" in the group, and the median household here spends 36% of their income on housing + transportation. The Social Equity + Social Vulnerability score is 14.8/20.

  • 2809 - A different part of the Near West Side, on the east side of Western Ave. between Madison St. and the Eisenhower, including the Pete's Fresh Market. Next to the Western Blue Line station (Forest Park branch).
    A "Smart Growth Potential" of 7/10, and the lowest housing + transportation spending, at 34%. The Social Equity + Social Vulnerability score is the highest, at 15.45/20.
    Note that the Kinzie Planned Manufacturing District covers most of this land and residential isn’t allowed north of Lake Street. The Chicago planning department has proposed allowing more office uses and larger offices.

  • 8429 - Includes a large amount of the Illinois Medical District and the ABLA Brooks Homes and Jane Addams Park. No train stations, but on the Western, Ashland, Roosevelt, and Blue Island bus routes.
    The "Smart Growth Potential" here is 5/10, and typical households spend 35% of their income housing + transportation. The Social Equity + Social Vulnerability score is 14.62/20.

Other top 10 Opportunity Zones are in East St. Louis, Aurora, Champaign, and Joliet.