Chicago officials announced last week a new corridor ambassador program that will provide on-the-street support for shoppers and businesses in Austin and 12 other targeted retail districts across the city.
The program will be operated by a dozen community-based organizations that will hire and train neighborhood residents to provide a friendly, welcoming presence on local streets. Starting in early June, ambassadors for each corridor will greet passers-by and provide information on parking, dining and shopping.
In Austin, the Westside Health Authority will run the ambassador program on Madison Street and Pulaski Road, and Chicago Avenue.
Ambassadors will also help connect people experiencing homelessness to city resources and coordinate with public safety agencies on potential safety hazards, medical emergencies and possible criminal activity.
Ambassadors will wear brightly colored attire while providing a five- to 12-hour presence per day, five to seven days per week, depending on corridor needs. At least two ambassadors will work at the same time in each corridor. More than 100 ambassadors are expected to be hired in support of the program, approximately six to 12 per corridor.
“This program will provide hyperlocal, concierge-like services directly to the people who visit, shop and work along these corridors,” DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox said in a statement. “The ambassadors will be greeting shoppers, talking to business owners, responding to questions and making people feel welcome.”
Grants will total up to $5 million budgeted citywide for the program’s initial year.
To maximize their impact, ambassadors will coordinate with Chicago Public School’s Safe Passage program, which provides a trusted adult presence for students traveling to and from schools, and refer to local service providers as needed. They will also work with their local Chicago Police Department district, as well as Chambers of Commerce, Special Service Area managers and other entities that are supporting Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West community revitalization and safety initiatives.
The program is part of the Chicago Recovery Plan’s ambitious $1.2 billion strategy for equitable economic recovery and support for thriving and safe communities.
Participating organizations were selected through a request for proposals issued in March. Nineteen community-based organizations responded. The city is targeting low- and moderate-income service areas or shopping districts that saw a 15% or more drop in activity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Besides Austin, other selected agencies and targeted streets include:
- Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council/Ashland Avenue and 47th Street
- Bright Star Community Outreach/35th Street and King Drive
- Calumet Area Industrial Development Commission/Michigan Avenue and 111th Street
- Centers for New Horizons/63rd and Halsted streets
- Greater Chatham Initiative/East 79th Street
- Magnificent Mile Association/Magnificent Mile and River North, and Central Loop
- Northwest Side Housing Center/Belmont, Diversey, Fullerton, and Grand avenues
- Puerto Rican Cultural Center/North Avenue
- St. Sabina/West 79th Street
- Uptown United/Broadway, Sheridan Road, and Argyle Street