Grants Bolster Illinois Port District’s Financial and Community Assets

The Takeaway: Funding and assistance by the Illinois Coastal Management Program strengthens operations and helps remedy infrastructure problems.

For many years, the reputation of the Illinois International Port District—which manages the Port of Chicago and private marine terminals—was dogged by reports of deteriorating infrastructure and poorly run operations. The Illinois Coastal Management Program, part of the state’s Department of Natural Resources, has contributed grants and other aid as part of a master plan to attract community buy-in on improving port district operations and economic strength.

The port district’s revitalization forms part of the Calumet Collaborative’s efforts in Illinois to address environmental, economic, and community heritage issues. The Calumet Collaborative is a two-state initiative serving the Calumet region of southeastern Chicago and southern Cook County in Illinois and Lake, Porter, and LaPorte counties in northwestern Indiana.

Since 2012, the Illinois Coastal Management Program has provided technical assistance and two capacity grants totaling nearly $125,000 to develop a port master plan (with community input) and address the following issues:

  • Forging stronger community relationships through launching the port district’s first quarterly newsletter and annual events, hosting community meetings, and attracting partners for future development plans
  • Pursuing port solar panel installation to generate some energy on-site
  • Creating a funding matrix that enables partners to make the best use of future grant opportunities

Technical assistance by coastal program staff members has helped the port district grow its administrative strength. As a result, the district has submitted four new grant applications and built relationships with potential future funders. Goals include roadway improvements, a hotel and public boat launch, a multi-use path that will better link local neighborhoods, and a project that would provide at least two different transportation modes for moving cargo.

This port district master plan process is the first of its kind to bring port district officials together with representatives of the City of Chicago, Cook County, and the Illinois Departments of Transportation and Natural Resources. (Read about additional Calumet Collaborative projects in Illinois.) (2021)

Partners: Calumet Collaborative, City of Chicago, Cook County, Illinois Department of Transportation and Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Management Program