By Ginger Downs, RCE, CAE, IOM
Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Association of Realtors
While the nationwide real estate market has had a down year, it is important for both industry professionals and consumers to evaluate local markets individually. We are not, despite some media reports, in dire straights. While what potential homebuyers see on the nightly news may not scare them from purchasing a home altogether, it can shake their confidence. This sensationalism is unnecessary; after all, this is a buyers’ market.
Chicago is a city unlike any other in the world, which is why we are the No. 1 U.S. metropolitan area for corporate investments in commercial and industrial development. Additionally, we are the No. 1 connection point for air, rail, highway, telecommunications and Internet businesses. When “negative” headlines about real estate in Chicago makes our clients nervous, it is important to reassure them that this is not a market in turmoil. Our market is healthy and, considering what lies ahead for our city, it will continue to grow and flourish.
The 2016 Olympics offers an opportunity for Chicago to take center stage in front of the world. An estimated 3.9 billion viewers around the globe will watch the Olympic Games in 2016, and Chicagoans are excited at the chance to showcase their city. Potential investors, tourists, and future residents will see Chicago shine.
The positive effects of the Olympics on our city would extend far past the Closing Ceremonies. After attending the 58th International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI) World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this May, Chicago Association of Realtors President Alex Chaparro made this observation, “Nearly 15 years after the closing ceremony, the Barcelonan Olympic village and stadium remain thriving tourist attractions, evident of how beneficial the games can be, long-term, for the host city’s economy. We face similar challenges to Barcelona with regards to transportation, development and housing.”
These are challenges that the City of Chicago is working to overcome, regardless of whether we win our Olympic bid. Through the Chicago Housing Authority, family developments and senior housing help put roofs over the heads of our citizens in need. The Chicago Department of Planning and Development offers Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and other grants to developers and businesses that help revitalize local communities, for instance, through the elimination of slums or developing environmentally friendly properties.
In 2004, Mayor Daley announced that all forthcoming Chicago buildings must meet the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard. We are the only city in the country that requires its buildings to meet, and often surpass, the LEED Green Building Rating System.
Imagine peering down on the Loop from a birds-eye view and seeing oasis-like bursts of green on the rooftops below. Through the Department of Planning and Development’s “Chicago Green Roofs” project, that vision will soon be a reality. A “Green Roof” is a veneer of landscape over a traditional roof that offers countless benefits to its city. In addition to their beauty, Green Roofs clean and retain rainwater, reduce overheating that contributes to pollution, and improve air quality. And, as with other community-benefiting projects, the city offers incentives for businesses and residences that construct green roofs on their buildings. To set an example for other downtown properties, Mayor Daley had a 20,000-square-foot Green Roof installed atop City Hall in 2001.
Chicago is a city that strives for excellence in every industry, and real estate is no different. Our efforts to overcome homelessness and construct buildings through eco-friendly practices are inspirational to smaller and larger metropolitan areas throughout the United States. Markets may fluctuate with the economy for short periods, but we in Chicago are constantly working to sustaining our present, and future, as an industry-leading city and an excellent place to live and work.
Chicago REALTORS, “The Voice for Real Estate in Chicago” since 1883, represents the business interests of more than 17,000 real estate professionals in the Chicagoland area. Chicago REALTORS is led by a voluntary board of directors, elected by the membership, who work in partnership with a professional administrative staff.