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Agencies learn art of the deal

As the implementation process carries forward across the 16 communities in NCP, lead agencies and their partners are learning the art of the deal.

Two deals that have gone down in recent months, the anatomies of which were presented during a breakout session at last month’s “Getting It Done” conference at the UIC Forum, illustrate how deals are defined within NCP – and how they’re cut.

Photo: John Booz

Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, executive director of Quad Communities Development Corp., tells how she and consultant Chinye Onyeagoro (at left in slide) landed a deal with a commercial developer. 

Those who attended the session learned how Englewood landed a $1 million grant for five years from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a public-safety-oriented “Weed and Seed” program -- and how Quad Communities jump-started a mixed-income development after they “bum rushed” an unsuspecting urban-oriented developer at the International Conference of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas.

The Weed and Seed program provides services like tutoring and mentoring for high school students, “safe haven” facilities for youth to bond in a positive way, and a prisoner re-entry program for a community that’s home to thousands of formerly incarcerated people, said the Rev. Rodney Walker, executive director of NCP lead agency Teamwork Englewood, and Larry Sachs, director of grants management for the Chicago Police Department.

The deal-making process enabled Teamwork Englewood to build capacity and strengthen its opportunities to gain both public and private dollars, Walker said. With the strong history of community policing in Chicago, Sachs said he easily achieved buy-in from the police, who especially wanted to be seen as a partner to a community reeling from the violence that has taken the lives of local children.

‘No better work’ “There’s an emotional component in choosing to provide services to Englewood ,” he said. “We want to demonstrate that we care; that we’re not just about arresting people. … There’s probably no better work we can do than to help them bring resources into their communities.”

Photo: John Booz

The $1 million for five years from the Department of Justice enabled Teamwork Englewood to build capacity, said the Rev. Rodney Walker, executive director (right), who appeared with Larry Sachs of the Chicago Police Department. 

Money from LISC/Chicago that enabled Teamwork Englewood to hire a part-time grants manager helped to ease concerns about the lead agency’s capacity, Sachs said. A steering committee encompassing public officials and representatives of nonprofit and faith-based organizations will oversee the process, Sachs added.

The process thus far has involved much drafting of letters-of-agreement and subcontracts to incorporate Kennedy-King College, which will provide the tutoring piece; Family Service Center, which will provide the safe haven space; the Pastors of Englewood, which will provide transportation to programming for those with distances to travel – or gang lines to cross; and the Safer Foundation, which will expand its services in helping the formerly incarcerated reintegrate into society.

Teamwork and the Safer Foundation will share space at Kennedy-King College to better coordinate the program, Walker added.

”Several unexpected deals came out of our work together,” Sachs said, including a micro-loan program for formerly incarcerated individuals that the Department of Justice rejected – but which the CPD and Teamwork Englewood are moving forward on, anyway, with help from LISC.

QCDC put together what might have seemed an unexpected deal for the Shops and Lofts at 47 project along a formerly trash-strewn stretch of Cottage Grove Avenue – but in a neighborhood that will see 5,000 units of mixed-income housing built in the next five years.

Photo: John Booz

"They bum-rushed us, and they did it successfully," said Adam Troy of Mahogany Ventures, referring to the QCDC team showing up at his conference booth in Las Vegas without an appointment. 

“The need for retail is huge,” said Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, NCP director for the lead agency.

The agency first worked to clean up the street’s image through The Cara Program and its Cleanslate initiative, which teaches job skills to difficult-to-employ people as they collect garbage and recyclables. They next turned to the Little Black Pearl Art & Design Center, which commissioned local youth to create banners that project an optimistic new retail vision.

Prior to attending the shopping center convention, the agency researched four or five urban-oriented developers and approached their booths without appointments, Johnson-Gabriel said.

“They bum-rushed us, and they did it successfully,” recalled Adam Troy, principal with Mahogany Ventures. “What got them in the door is that they were deal-ready. They came in with the information. They had the data. They had a plan for land assembly. … They had relationships with elected officials. They had funders in their corner.”

'At a tipping point'

As Mahogany crunched the numbers, it realized Quad Communities was poised for a rebirth, Troy said. “We’re not magicians,” he said. “We can’t drop down in your community and turn it around overnight. They were at a tipping point.”

The resulting Shops and Lofts projects will enliven both the intersection at 47th Street and King Drive as well as Quad Communities on the whole. 

The deal turned out to be something of a retail “perfect storm,” said Frank Petruziello, another principal with Mahogany. “At first glance we thought Bernita and [consultant] Chinwe [Onyeagoro] were out of their minds. Then we looked a little further.”

Between the location at the intersection of two main streets and statistics from LISC/MetroEdge that showed 90 percent of retail dollars were leaving the Quad Communities, Mahogany became convinced, he said.

“We developers like the concept of main-on-main (streets),” he said. “We were able to see that we had an opportunity to capture those retail dollars and provide a base for this building.”

Johnson-Gabriel said the deal would not have happened without the impetus of the NCP quality-of-life planning process. “It’s a direct mandate from 18 months of meetings,” she said. “It’s not about me. It’s not about the organization. It’s about what we have to deliver back to the community.”

She praised James Wilson of Chicago ’s Department of Planning and Development as “the bomb. … He is not only a planner, he’s a partner.”

Troy said QCDC’s working relationship with the city helped move the deal forward. “The government is always concerned about whether the CDC has enough horsepower to get to the finish line,” he said. “We have to have somebody at the table who has credibility on both sides, from both the public and private perspective.”

Speaking at a breakfast panel the following morning, Wilson said he once lacked respect for small community agencies, but QCDC has made his job a lot easier. “They gave me hope that you can make a difference in the neighborhood,” he said.

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