CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday announced plans to spend $1.5 million in each of the city’s seven planning regions, as part of a program to encourage residents and community groups to come up with their own ideas for enhancing their communities.

The $10 million Chicago Works Community Challenge will award up to $1.5 million to each of seven winning proposals to make improvements to city-owned properties; including parks, schools, libraries, and vacant lots.

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The mayor said it’s important for members of the community to have input in improving their neighborhoods, because Chicago residents know best what their communities need to thrive.

“In order for the investment and development initiatives to have the most positive impact on the community, it must be reflective of what the community wants. That’s why community input will play a huge role in the Chicago Works community challenge site selection process,” Lightfoot said. “At the end of the day, I know that you know what your community needs best.”

Applications can be filed online at from June 1 through September 1.

The mayor’s office said finalists in each region will take part in public feedback sessions from October through December, and then winners will be selected for funding based on a range of criteria, including financial feasibility, community preferences, project design, and impact.

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To be eligible, projects must be located on city-owned vacant residential lots, or on property owned by the Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District, or Chicago Public Library.

Lightfoot said the city hopes to break ground on the winning projects next year.

Chicago Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox said the city wants to turn community ideas for improving neighborhoods into real tangible investments.

“It might be a vacant lot that could be transformed into a food court for food trucks, or a neighborhood playground. It might be the local library that we go to, and you’ve noticed that it could use a new reading room for young people. We think that some of the best ideas that are out there that will sustain neighborhoods are right there in the community,” he said.

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For more information on the requirements for the Chicago Works Community Challenge, or to submit a proposal, visit

CBS 2 Chicago Staff