Creative Solutions for Community-first Property Development
American cities change in a multitude of ways over their lifetimes. This is more true now as technological advancements allows for rapid development and change.
As different populations move in and out of cities, they recreate communities in subtle and dramatic ways. This can manifest through the development of new buildings, the removal of old ones, as well as more subtle forms of change. Whatever it is that prompts the change to occur, the indelible spirit of a city will be refracted and adapted by the people who live there. Those who provide housing must adapt to meet changing needs. This tendency to change and the need to adapt may be true more in Chicago, IL than anywhere else in the United States, as Chicago has seen immigrant populations from around the world mold its culture over centuries, industry collapse and develop, and internal flux throughout the past century.
This ongoing cultural shift has required that business which wish to remain viable and stable in Chicagoland must be just as adaptable and flexible. This is especially true for organizations in the business of property development and housing support. For example, Beal Properties was founded over 30 years ago and has been active and engaged in Chicago since then providing housing to a variety of communities across the metropolitan region. In its time as a business in the region, Beal Properties has strived to reflect the communities in which it works, by contributing to a variety of organizations that work to uphold community and meet the needs of the people who live there.
Gentrification’s impact on the community
As communities shift in their demographic makeup, as investments in the community from outside forces shift, and as industries collapse and grow, property values can change in dramatic ways. This shift, often called “gentrification” leads to the push of poor and underserved communities out of their homes, out of the spaces in which they raise and educate their families. If not managed carefully, gentrification can cause breakdowns within a community and seriously damage the lives of the people who live there. This potential danger is why organizations that wish to offer housing and service to communities in a city as diverse and vibrant as Chicago must work exceptionally hard to meet the needs of all communities. Without this intentional care, the consequences can be severe.
It’s important to develop cities ethically and carefully without allowing for gentrification to take place, because, unchecked, gentrification in property development can and will push people out of their homes due to rising property taxes and the relative ease for rich outsiders to purchase cheap land and property. While this can have immediate benefits for those who can afford to live in an area, it leaves behind those who are unable to meet the rising cost of living. Conversely, as property taxes and rates rise, there can be consequences for business owners and landlords who might be left with empty luxury condos and other properties with lower demand and less use.
This balance is what ethical property development companies strive to meet. One way that companies can work to prevent gentrification and pushing residents out of their homes is to take a community-first approach. This is what Beal Properties strives to do with the company’s placements in various neighborhoods, including Lake View, Wrigleyville, Gold Coast, and Highland Park. As Beal Properties has developed in each of these neighborhoods, it has been absolutely essential that a community-first method of understanding current residents, expanding resources, and providing top-notch service has been central in strategy.
As companies work to engage in the revitalization of property and community engagement, special focus must be given to the challenge of individuals displaced from their homes, maintaining affordable options for people from a diverse range of backgrounds, and the celebration and encouragement of a broad coalition of cultures.
Deconverting for the community
One way to better serve an entire community is through deconversion of luxury living accommodations into more useable apartment dwellings. Beal Properties has found success in this effort by focusing on the strategy of deconverting luxury condominiums into more affordable and more useful apartment units and multifamily living. By leading the way in this initiative, Beal Properties has shown that property development can be a support for a community, can engage the very problems that create gentrification and challenge these problems.
The deconversion process takes larger, less useful living quarters and through a more environmentally friendly process develops apartment buildings and multi-family units that improve a community rather than leave empty luxury condos taking up space and raising property rates.
Preserving the history of a community
By creatively converting far too expensive housing into affordable accommodations, while also engaging in far more environmentally friendly methods, Beal Properties has shown the benefits of saving the structure underneath old properties, while reviving neighborhoods and expanding access to these communities.
Another key advantage of revitalizing communities through deconversion processes is the tendency this practice has to preserve the basic architecture of communities, from the integrity of the street plan to the facades and classic building aesthetics of Chicago’s historical buildings. This tactic allows for history to be maintained, for community memory to be honored, while simultaneously providing for better housing options in Chicago.
Business prioritizing the community
Beal Properties is a long-standing community business. Chicagoland residents are employed at variety of levels of leadership in the organization. Beal Properties has demonstrated to the broader community of property developers the importance of preserving the historical communities in the broader Chicago metropolitan area. Through this commitment to lead the way, Beal has improved rental practices, pushed the industry to advance technologically, and supported local residents, first and foremost. This has led to massive local growth and development, supporting consumer-level leadership and drive.
As the global economy grows and its impacts are felt at the municipal level, its vital for local communities that property developers prioritize these community-level initiatives. This careful attention to the broader cultural needs of the community is the only way that development will continue to support broader and broader demographics and prevent gentrification from pushing members of the community out.