Equity, Sustainability and Resilience

Environmental Justice and Equitable Reinvestment

Building Community Capacity for Neighborhood Reinvestment – Freeport, Illinois

Situation

The East Side neighborhood of Freeport, Illinois, is a predominantly African-American community located in a flood zone across the Pecatonica River from downtown Freeport. Revitalization investments are badly needed. However, a lack of trust has made it difficult for neighborhood residents and the City to make progress.

Solution

EPA and the City of Freeport asked Skeo to facilitate a community planning process to prioritize investments for flood protection and brownfield reuse. We started with a Building Cultural Competence training to build relationships between city staff and East Side community leaders, creating an atmosphere that fostered trust and understanding. City staff now has the skills to build and sustain relationships with residents, moving on from the distrust that compromised previous efforts. Community residents have renewed enthusiasm for revitalization discussions and are considering forming a neighborhood association to partner directly with the City.

Building on this foundation, Skeo then documented local flooding concerns and facilitated discussions to prioritize investments addressing flood protection, access to services and housing stabilization.

Outcomes

Project efforts resulted in a green infrastructure plan to reduce local flood impacts. Additional capacity-building training prepared residents to discuss their concerns and recommendations with FEMA and other federal agencies. Based on this work, EPA awarded the City of Freeport a Brownfield Areawide Planning Grant. Skeo is currently supporting community efforts to plan for additional investments in transportation, recreation and local amenities.

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“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt