Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Proposed Zoning Ordinance Restricts Cultural Activities

Dear Chairman Tunney and Members of the Committee,

Recently, Landmarks Illinois and the Alphawood Foundation informed the Chicago Cultural Alliance about a proposed zoning amendment that would restrict establishing cultural exhibits and the housing of museums in “R” zoning districts and require special use permits. This proposal is in stark contrast to the mission of the Chicago Cultural Alliance. The Alliance is an arts advocacy organization that provides professional services to 42 ethnic museums, historical societies, and community centers, which we call our Core Members. Our members operating in “R” districts are active and central meeting places that contribute to stabilizing and improving their blocks and neighborhoods.

The Alliance was founded by and for Chicago’s neighborhood-based cultural institutions. Our mission is to promote, support, and connect centers of cultural heritage for a more inclusive and equitable Chicago. Our members represent 30 different cultures around the world and are all based in 30 of the 77 Chicago neighborhoods and 10 suburbs.

These institutions protect and highlight Chicago’s history, foster economic stability through partnerships with local businesses and family-owned restaurants, and address residents’ needs in your wards and throughout the city. The Chicago Cultural Alliance strongly opposes this proposed zoning amendment. It will harm neighborhoods and create more uncertainty for these vital community institutions who are already a vulnerable class of small businesses because of the pandemic. It would also curtail other organizations who are planning to establish new museums and cultural exhibits, including the former home of Muddy Waters and a museum dedicated to Emmett Till.

The Alliance and our members provide cultural activities, education opportunities for teachers and students, and stimulate local business in neighborhoods. We also actively connect and partner with Alderman and Chambers of Commerce to emphasize how these institutions strengthen and rebuild our city. If members of the zoning committee want to learn more about our work, we invite you to join our monthly virtual town halls on the first Fridays of each month. If the Zoning Committee chooses to participate, please contact me at [email protected]

We urge you to vote against any change in the zoning code that will disallow and discourage our members’ operations. The proposal will seriously jeopardize the stability of neighborhood institutions that tell inclusive, equitable, and honest stories about this city and its people.