Location: Freeport, IL | Client: City of Freeport | Project Date: September 2015 – August 2016
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Due to chronic flooding, disinvestment and racial tensions, relationships between city staff and the East Side residents were at an impasse. Skeo began the hard work of relationship-building by offering an intensive Building Cultural Competence training for both city staff and residents. Building on this foundation, Skeo facilitated agreement for a Flood Mitigation Framework. In 2014, the City of Freeport launched the Riverfront Enterprise Area planning process to continue the work of equitable development and chart a course for revitalizing these communities. The four neighborhoods adjacent to Freeport’s Pecatonica River represent a diverse set of demographics, and the planning process needed to bring leaders from all four communities together to identify their common interests and hopes for the future.
Skeo designed and co-facilitated a two-year collaborative planning process in partnership with the local project planning team and co-consultant Fehr Graham. Early in the process, stakeholders agreed that the planning process and outcomes should reflect both environmental justice and equitable development principles to ensure that all Riverfront communities benefit from the investments recommended in the final plan. Skeo conducted an existing conditions study, a market study and developed planning scenarios that reflected the revitalization priorities chosen by project participants. Throughout the two-year project, Skeo infused the process with public education and dialogue about the economic value of equitable development to build support from stakeholder groups who had resonated with equity concerns early on.
The resulting plan – Freeport Forward! Riverfront Enterprise Area Plan – incorporates equity principles into all of its recommendations and was adopted by the City of Freeport in 2016. The plan’s revitalization strategies reflect the input of community residents, business owners, downtown stakeholders, the Riverfront Advisory Committee, and city staff and elected officials and are grouped in to three primary themes:
- Downtown Revitalization
- Neighborhood Transformation
- Riverfront and Recreation
A supplementary Riverfront Enterprise Area Implementation Strategy Addendum was created by Skeo to capture implementation phasing and funding sources.