Evolution of the EZ

January 1994–”Planning begins for the Chicago Empowerment Zone. City officials hold meetings with more than 200 community, government and business leaders.

June 30, 1994–”Chicago submits its application to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

December 1994–”Mayor Richard M. Daley announces that Chicago will receive $100 million in federal Empowerment Zone funds and $37.6 million in state monies during the next 10 years.

January to October 1995–”The city receives more than 230 nominations for seats on the Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community Coordinating Council, whose members will review grant proposals and recommend funding. Final grants must be approved by the Chicago City Council. The zone council also issues its request for proposals.

January 5, 1996–”The 39-member zone council holds its first meeting.

March 1996–”The City Council approves the first 17 projects recommended by the zone council.

July 1996–”The City Council approves 58 more projects.

February 1997–”The final nine projects are approved by the City Council, bringing the total to 84. Consultants hired by the city say the projects will create between 3,000 and 5,000 new full-time and part-time jobs.

June 1997–”An investigation by The Chicago Reporter reveals the Empowerment Zone projects have created 283 full-time jobs–”most of them administrative positions guaranteed only for the life of the grant. The Reporter also found that the zone council is awarding grants to political allies.

July 1997–”A Planning Department survey of 70 Empowerment Zone businesses finds they have created 1,700 new jobs.

Sept. 10, 1997–”Responding to complaints, the City Council approves Daley’s proposal to reduce the zone council from 39 members to 17.

Feb. 5, 1998–”The new zone council holds its first meeting.

May 1998–”The zone council begins discussion of the second cycle of funding but sets no deadline for new proposals.

June 1998–”The zone council announces that $70.2 million is available for the second cycle: about $59 million in federal funds and $11.2 million from the state.

August 1998–”The zone council approves awards of $14.2 million to the Chicago Department of Housing to be disbursed to community groups to develop affordable housing. The move prompts complaints that the zone funds should have gone directly to community organizations. To date, the zone council has approved 10 of those projects, and the City Council has signed off on eight.

Source: Chicago Department of Planning and Development records

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