Resources for Illinois Communities

CGS works with community leaders to promote downtown vitality and community-wide growth.  We recognize that a balance of retail, office, residential, institutional, recreational and other uses is needed to create sustainable 24 hour community centers.  Through training, research, conferences, and community specific technical assistance, CGS staff shares the resources of NIU and our network of experts with community leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors.  A variety of resources can be found on this page, including upcoming events, material from past workshops, examples of best practices, models and templates for local projects, and sources for data and information.

  • Growing Communities Initiative Resources: A list of GCI Services. Giving Illinois communities access to tools and expertise for community development, downtown enhancement and economic growth.
  • Growing Communities Initiative ToolboxTools to help you address issues, plan and carry out improvement projects, grow your businesses and run your organizations effectively. Some of the tools can be downloaded and posted on local websites.  Others can be linked to local websites.  New tools will be added regularly, so check back often.

Click on the images below to take you to interactive PDFs with information about each category of GCI services:


Click on the image to enlarge it: link takes you to an interactive PDF with information about each category.

GCI Services page 2

Click on the image to enlarge it: link takes you to an interactive PDF with information about each category.


NEW!  Backyard Beekeeping - City of St. Charles, IL

Backyard beekeeping is one of a number of issues that communities are facing as a result of renewed interest in small scale agriculture. This report presents the process and recommendations that resulted in the beekeeping ordinance adopted by the City of St. Charles. REPORT PDF

Findings on Downtowns from Survey of Illinois Mayors

Downtown and the Aging Population

The number of people age 55 and older is projected to increase quickly in the coming decades.  In many communities, they may become the single largest age group.  Older people, whether they are referred to as Baby Boomers, senior citizens, retirees, or something else, are a source of residents, visitors, and business owners.  They are often active volunteers and public officials.  Often they are interested in downtown as a convenient place to live;  a center for the arts, culture and entertainment; and  a community center for socializing, accessing public institutions, and receiving services.  Communities that meet the needs of this age group will be positioned to benefit from their growing numbers, however they must also be prepared to meet the needs of older residents as they move into the oldest, less independent age groups. The resources below provide information on how your community can be ready and benefit from an aging population.


·       Demographic Shifts: Planning for a Diverse Region, Prepared by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

·        AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities:  A self-service toolkit to prepare your community to welcome an older population http://www.aarp.org/livable-communities/network-age-friendly-communities/

·        AARP Livability Index: This online tool  enables you to check how well your community meets the needs of older residents, and also scores your community on many features of interest to other age groups.   https://livabilityindex.aarp.org/

·        Beyond millennials: Valuing older adults’ participation in innovation districts, by Jessica A. Lee for Brookings, March 22, 2017.  https://www.brookings.edu/research/beyond-millennials-valuing-older-adults-participation-in-innovation-districts/

·        How Big a Boost Do Working Seniors Give the Economy?  PBS Newshour. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business-july-dec13-olderworkers_09-02/

Emergence and Growth of Community Supported Enterprises

Local development agencies organize groups of residents to invest in business ventures commonly known as Community Supported Enterprises or Businesses. These ventures are often motivated by the potential loss of a grocery store, restaurant, or other establishment considered vital to quality of life in the community. Motivated by a need to maintain or build social capital, a group of residents pool their investments to purchase a building or on-going establishment and then hire an operator to manage the business with returns paid to the organizing agency. These agencies may be a nonprofit, LLC, Cooperative or other type of organization. Emergence and Support of Community Supported Enterprises is a North Central Regional Center for Rural Development funded project that examines how CSEs are organized and operate in several states. It involves a collaborative effort between the Center for Governmental Studies, University of Wisconsin Extensive, and Michigan State Extension.

Executive Summary| Full Report

The Back to the City Movement: Will It Help Illinois' Smaller Cities?

This CGS Policy Profile outlines what your small city can do to capture growth in residents, businesses and revenue generated by renewed interest in urban lifestyles. Read it here.

Current Projects

CGS works regularly with communities of all types and sizes to study issues relevant to planning, growth and economic development. An excellent example is the recent 2018 Report: "Economic Development Opportunities in Shabbona, IL."

Training and Events

CGS regularly offers workshops for local downtown development organization staff and volunteers, city staff and officials, economic development professionals, chambers of commerce, entrepreneurs, students, and others interested in downtown revitalization.  The workshops are held around the state throughout the year.  Click on the upcoming events below for information on topics, dates, and locations.  For information on past workshops, click on the past events below to read about the workshop and download material from the workshop. Workshops often sell out so advance registration is recommended.