Near West was born out of West Haven residents' desire to organize against a proposed plan to build a new Bear's football stadium in the community. Residents succeeded in their efforts, preventing the displacement of over 1,500 people and the destruction of hundreds of homes. In 1988, the group of community members formally banded together to establish Near West as a not-for-profit organization working to improve the quality-of-life for all residents.
As an organization, Near West began by focusing on community-based strategic planning that resulted in the development of affordable housing, sustainable economic development initiatives, and comprehensive social services. One of Near West’s original programs is Small Accessible Repairs for Seniors (SARFs), which provides minor home repairs to improve senior accessibility as
well as ramps for persons with disabilities. In 2000, Near West formed the Home Visitors Program (HVP) to promote personal and economic self-sufficiency for families moving under the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation. HVP became Near West’s social services branch, providing counseling and case management service. In 2001, Near West became the lead agency for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago (LISC) in West Haven through the New Communities Program (NCP). As a lead agency, Near West has facilitated two resident-led processes for the comprehensive development of the community, such as working with families to implement community-wide events and programs. In 2007, NCP boosted Near West’s efforts to establish a retail development initiative which included a Chamber of Commerce. In the same year, Near West also began offering baseball to 30 local youth during the summer. Now in its fourth year, Youth Zone Chicago serves over 700 youth annually with structured programming focusing on a variety of academic, athletic, artistic and mentoring activities.