Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives for the Pullman Revitalization Strategy
Revitalization of the Pullman neighborhood on the city’s Far South Side is occurring across so broad an area that it’s easy to underestimate the unified vision that is its driving force. But what’s happening — from the new Super Walmart along the I-94 Bishop Ford Expressway to the spectacular Kroc community center three miles away in West Pullman — is the fruit of a coherent-yet-comprehensive strategy ... and a whole lot of hard work.
At its center is Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), a non-profit offshoot of U.S. Bank that has been working closely with Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and organizations such as Mercy Housing and the Historic Pullman Foundation. The strategy’s centerpiece is the ongoing restoration of the Town of Pullman, the self-contained village built by railcar magnate George M. Pullman in the 1880s to house his workers close to the factory gate. Look for this piece — part artists’ colony, part affordable row houses — to hit overdrive if the White House elevates its status to that of a National Historic Park.
To the east, where I-94 skirts Lake Calumet, a more straightforward but no less impressive redevelopment is occurring on the sprawling, 180-acre site of a former steel mill. Following key infrastructure investments by the City, CNI’s Pullman Park first opened its Walmart and adjacent stores, then a modern enviro-friendly soap factory for Method Home Products, Inc., soon a Pullman Community Center recreation complex, and eventually, 1,100 homes covering a spectrum of architectural formats and price/ rental points.
Though CNI and U.S. Bank led the way at Pullman Park, redevelopment there and elsewhere in the neighborhood has been guided by an extensive, year-long planning process. Three public workshops and more than 65 meetings were held with community stakeholders to make sure the development honors the neighborhood and meets the goals of its residents.
“Building confidence in Pullman is at the core of all of CNI’s work,” says President David Doig. “There’s a broad base of public and private partners committed to the neighborhood. We’ve had the unwavering support of elected officials and, most significantly, committed residents who invest countless hours of time improving their community.”
Thresholds for Fred and Pamela Buffett Place
Everything about Buffett Place whispers “home.”
But converting the cold and infamous Diplomat Hotel into a warm and nurturing environment required deft coordination among Illinois’ largest provider of mental health services, the City of Chicago, and Brinshore Development LLC.
After the City took possession of the vacant SRO following years of mismanagement, the mayor and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), sought to preserve affordability and make it an asset, not a liability, to the bustling Belmont/ Sheffield district.
The winning proposal by Thresholds/Brinshore and architects Landon Bone Baker did that and much more, delivering not just a stunningly innovative design but participation by several other experts ... and importantly, Thresholds residents.
Removal of an old one-story addition at the building’s center allowed for an interior courtyard that functions as a kind of shared living room. Sunlight now floods the widened corridors and 51 spacious living suites, reduced from 91 carved-up units during SRO days. A rooftop green garden was installed offering skyline views not typically associated with affordable housing.
What most impresses, though, are the non-institutional touches that make Buffett Place feel like home. The non-profit archi-treasures collected art by residents across the Thresholds network and integrated their images into a large woodcut spelling “home” in the new lobby. The ReBuilding Exchange salvaged hardwood joists and framing to craft one-of-a-kind benches, bookshelves and coat racks. The Chicago Botanic Garden helped with landscaping and greening of the courtyard, rooftop and other common areas. Thresholds installed a flower shop at sidewalk level on Sheffield, both to enliven the streetscape and help Buffett residents with their socialization and job skills.
Buffett Place, says CEO Mark Ishaug, not only reflects Thresholds’ “home, health and hope” motto, but “a new housing model for a vulnerable population.”
Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation for the 1704 N. Humboldt Building
Second chances aren’t guaranteed in community development, but as Section 8 contracts expire and subsidized mortgages run their course, veteran developers of affordable housing are faced more and more with the challenge of a do-over.
Only now they have a masterful how-to model — Bickerdike’s top-to- bottom rehab of its 29-unit yellow brick courtyard apartment building on the northwest corner of Wabansia Avenue and historic Humboldt Boulevard.
Bickerdike saved the HUD-owned 1704 N. Humboldt from demolition in 1985 and proceeded to de-convert its 54 studios into 29 units of family affordable housing. Now an $11.3 million recapitalization has enabled repairs not in the earlier budget, beginning with total removal of lead and asbestos along with rewiring throughout. New amenities include: Energy Star windows, appliances and fixtures; air conditioning; high- efficiency heating; water-saving fixtures; tenant storage space; bicycle parking; on-site laundry; cable/internet hook ups; and solar hot water.
In keeping with this classic courtyard walk-up’s prominent position along a historic boulevard, architects Weese Langley Weese paid close attention to matching the exterior yellow brick, the mortar tone, and ornamental doors and hardware.
Typical of Bickerdike, the work was accomplished primarily with local labor via its Humboldt Construction Company. Tenant dislocation was minimized and a Community Advisory Board including tenants assists with management.
With Humboldt Park under renewed gentrification pressure, this project importantly locks in Section 8 affordability for 29 families — 70 percent with “extremely low incomes” and a majority living there at least five years. Bickerdike waited several years for IHDA to allocate the tax credits key to making the numbers work, but Executive Director Joy Aruguette says all project partners can take pride “in making this building safe, livable and financially secure.”
Skilken Development Co. and Troy Enterprises for The Shops & Lofts at 47
They never gave up. Despite multiple setbacks, from the Great Recession to doubts by outsiders that the once-beating heart of Bronzeville could beat again, they kept at it for 10 years ... and got it done.
But the Shops & Lofts at 47 delivers more than a Walmart Neighborhood Market to residents weary of leaving the neighborhood for fresh food, or the 96 stylish apartments snapped up by renters from all across the city’s income spectrum. Delivered also is a new model for community-based planning and input, for public sector intervention and investment, and, apropos of this award, for private sector patience and problem-solving.
“Shops” was conceived by the Quad Communities Development Corp. as the linchpin of a broader comeback of Cottage Grove Avenue – historic Bronzeville’s commercial spine. Perhaps because they’re from Ohio, Skilken and Troy weren’t so much put off by negative local lore as they were intrigued by the vision of QCDC and its executive director Bernita Johnson-Gabriel. Besides vision, after all, their initial pitch, made at a Las Vegas retail convention, included professional market studies, a pair of community-written plans, and crucially, the full support of the mayor’s office, then-4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and her successor Will Burns.
Turned out every bit of that support would be needed as the project expanded to cover redevelopment of other properties on the block; slowed to a crawl when the Great Recession KO’d the condo market; then roared back with The Community Builders, a savvy developer of affordable housing, taking over the residential piece and weaving their own funding sources into the public/private financing model.
“It took us a number of years,” said Skilken’s Frank Petruziello, “but now we’re showing there’s definitely potential for Cottage Grove.”
Albany Park Neighborhood Council for The VOYCE Project
Several years ago, with the graduation rate among CPS high school students deteriorating toward 50 percent, a small group of student and community leaders began meeting about what some called the “school- to-prison pipeline.”
In 2007, with Albany Park Neighborhood Council taking the lead, a collaborative called Voices for Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) was formed along with Action Now Institute, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization and Southwest Organizing Project. Meeting regularly with Albany Park organizer Jose I. Sanchez, a half-dozen students from each neighborhood started by researching why so many kids were “dropping out.”
Turned out thousands of students were being suspended or expelled for often questionable reasons, or “counseled-out” by advisors. They also discovered that CPS and CPS-funded charter schools lacked a detailed and accessible reporting system for suspensions and dismissals, which is why their first public campaign called for creation of such a system statewide.
By knocking on the right doors, going to the right legislative hearings and – when necessary – striking the right tone at public demonstrations, VOYCE last spring helped pass SB-2793. The law requires publicly-funded schools statewide to report their number of suspensions and expulsions with breakdowns by race, gender, language and special-ed status. CPS, meanwhile, adopted a new Student Code of Conduct that ends two-week, out-of-school suspensions for minor offenses, cuts maximum suspension time, and ends in-school arrests for disorderly conduct.
What’s next? Working again with State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, VOYCE is closing in on passage of SB-3004 to forbid both “counseling out” and imposition of monetary fines, and to set statewide standards for suspensions and expulsions.
Not bad for a bunch of teenagers. Especially when one considers the CPS graduation rate, perhaps not coincidentally, is now approaching 70 percent.
Wrap Architecture for Bronzeville Artist Lofts
The old Borden’s dairy was a wreck, targeted by the city for demolition. But Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) saw instead another anchor for the revitalization of Bronzeville’s once-throbbing 47th Street commercial and cultural corridor.
Cheryl Noel and Ravi Ricker of Wrap Architecture saw it too, along with the fact that a surprisingly modern — for 1906 — cable suspension system would allow removal of first-floor partition walls, yielding an expansive and dramatic art expo space. The 16 work-live lofts on the upper two floors couldn’t help but be dramatic — not after a new sprinkler system allowed for exposure of muscular diagonal timber beams.
But it took some imagination. Much of the roof had collapsed and floors were soggy with a goo restoration architects jokingly call “urban mulch.” Several design ideas flowed from a series of community and artists’ charrettes: generous but energy-efficient windows throughout; ground floor “flex” and storage space available to resident artists; open live-work floor plans; chalkboard walls; benches made of reclaimed wood; wide corridors and common spaces decorated by tenant artists; an open-air deck big enough for summertime receptions.
“It was a matter of expressing the nature of the building,” says Noel. “It was a lovely but unnoticed structure ... the kind being lost across the city every day.”
Little wonder there were 200 applications for BAL’s six affordable-rent lofts. Or why co-developers Andre and Frances Guichard, whose Gallery Guichard anchors the first floor, call it “our ideal place for diverse people and cultures to connect.”
Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd for Grove Apartments
There’s what architects call “adaptive reuse” ... and then there’s total transformation. The panelized concrete box at the corner of Grove and Madison amid Oak Park’s onetime “Motor Row” — “remuddled” a while back into a cable TV office – gave no hint of its noble lineage.
But when Interfaith Housing Development Corp. engaged Weese Langley Weese to see if the site had potential for supportive housing, Dennis Langley uncovered what was left of a masterpiece: the sturdy concrete bones and warm brick skin conceived originally by the late Albert Kahn, an American master of industrial design.
Turns out Kahn’s 1927 formula for a luxury car dealership had the skeletal strength to support two additional floors and 51 spacious apartments. Once those faux stucco panels were peeled away, a handsomely warm red brick façade emerged that would blend gracefully with the Edwardian single-family homes nearby on Grove Avenue. The blend-in factor was crucial in light of early NIMBY resistance to affordable rentals replacing what had been a vacant eyesore.
The transformation required heroic amounts of painstaking work and attention to detail. Half the building’s blockish backside was cleared away for a courtyard, for landscaped parking, and blessed sunshine. Out front, Kahn’s rock-solid cast-in-place piers were extended by two stories and trimmed with the same Indiana limestone as the original. Compatible brick was special-ordered, as were beveled-glass exterior doors like those called for in Kahn’s original drawings.
The old LaSalle dealership’s nearly floor-to-ceiling windows were continued on the two added floors so natural light fills the wide corridors and all 51 apartments, each divided into kitchen/bedroom/living areas as opposed to “studio” style.
In keeping with Madison Street’s commercial zoning, the first-floor auto showroom is leased to an organically-inclined coop grocery store.
“It was,” says architect Langley, “a matter of finding what was originally there ... and imagining how Kahn would have added those two extra stories.”
Landon Bone Baker Architects Ltd for Fred and Pamela Buffett Place
Too often a focus on process can get in the way of delivering a quality product. But sometimes, when project planners reach out to everyone with something to contribute, the process begets brilliance.
How else to describe how Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), Brinshore Development and Thresholds — Illinois’ largest provider of mental health services to the needy — went about engaging talent capable of converting what had been an infamous SRO into a bright, life-affirming place that feels like home?
Architect Jeff Bone’s team listened carefully at a series of pre-development workshops for tenants and community stakeholders as folks vented on what they didn’t like about the old Diplomat Hotel ... and their hopes for the redo. Top-of-list was a sunlit place other than the sidewalk next to the liquor store at Belmont and Sheffield for residents to socialize. Hence an early decision to demolish a single-story interior structure to make room for an internal courtyard/living room that reflects sunlight throughout. Oh, and a rooftop green garden with skyline views not often associated with affordable housing.
Reducing the number of rooms to 51 from 91 yielded wider corridors, apartments with their own baths, and public spaces decorated with artwork crafted especially for Buffett Place. The non-profit archi-treasures led the latter effort, its lobby capstone a composite photograph of artwork produced by Thresholds residents overlain by the script “home” milled from reclaimed hardwood. Another non-profit, the ReBuilding Exchange, salvaged hardwood joists and framing to craft one-of-a-kind benches, bookshelves and coat racks that all but whisper “home.” Chicago Botanic Garden helped with landscaping, and Thresholds is opening an Urban Flowers shop, both to engage its residents ... and alert pedestrians that this stretch of Sheffield is no longer to be avoided.
“The level of involvement by different players,” said LBB project manager Claudia Rodriguez. “That was the dynamic that drove the outcome.”
She’s always there for the kids. But when she’s not in the studio encouraging youngsters, Sarah Ward most often can be found in her office managing and expanding one of the city’s most successful youth development programs.
Easy to overlook in this distant corner of the city, under Ward’s leadership the South Chicago Art Center has grown from a twice-a-week class serving 18 children to an oasis of art and affirmation, open daily, serving over 3,000 kids and reaching into 19 area schools.
And more is on the way later in 2015, what with the blossoming of a larger, brighter and better-located studio complex carved from a long-vacant industrial building. Turns out the Art Center’s executive director runs a capital campaign as brilliantly as she coaches kids on creativity.
But her focus is the students, many in serious need of a dependable “third place” between home and school.
“Kids read people pretty fast,” says Ward. “And with so much disruption in their lives — our average household moves twice a year — they really cling to what they can depend on.”
Since 2001 they’ve depended on Sarah Ward, not just for instruction in the visual arts but for a sense of self-worth “and a belief they can do anything they put their minds to.” It’s also a place that builds community, where black and brown kids make art side-by-side without racial, ethnic or gang divisions.
A registered art therapist with a masters from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ward founded the Art Center in 2001 after setting up an arts program at Cook County’s Juvenile Court. Now she encourages talented students to consider careers in art, often beginning with paid internships at the Center, where several have returned in adulthood as art instructors.
There may be a new building and name-change — SkyART — on the way, but Ward promises it will remain a calm space for dreams and aspirations to grow.
Mayor Emanuel spoke of innovation and LISC's contributions to neighborhood development as keynote speaker at the 20th Annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on Feb. 20, 2014. Video by CEI Media Group. Learn about the 2014 winners: http://www.lisc-chicago.org/news/2566
For developing a successful grassroots campaign for fairness and advancing a movement for justice, the Just Pay for All Coalition was awarded the first Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award at the 2014 Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on Feb. 20. Learn more and see the project video here http://www.lisc-cnda.org/Past-winners/20th-CNDA-Winners/The-Woods-Fund-Chicago-Power-of-Community-Award.html
For his work fighting for the dignity, respect and recognition of immigrants and refugees, which in turn affects the quality of life in neighborhoods across the city, Lawrence Benito of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) was the 2014 winner of The PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award. Learn more and see the award video here: http://www.lisc-cnda.org/Past-winners/20th-CNDA-Winners/The-PrivateBank-Norman-Bobins-Leadership-Award.html
For its Parkway Gardens Homes redevelopment, Related Companies was awarded The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on Feb. 20, 2014. One of the nation's most sophisticated developers, Related Companies has successfully taken on one of Chicago's largest, oldest and most troubled housing developments (once home to Michelle Obama) and restored it as an asset to the Woodlawn community. Read more and see the project video: http://www.lisc-cnda.org/Past-winners/20th-CNDA-Winners/The-Outstanding-For-Profit-Neighborhood-Real-Estate-Project-Award.html
For its dedication to preserving affordable rental housing and its resilience in creatively financing and renovating Hazel Winthrop Apartments, Chicago Community Development Corp. and Voice of the People of Uptown are the winners of the 2014 Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award. Learn more and see the project video here: http://www.lisc-cnda.org/Past-winners/20th-CNDA-Winners/The-Polk-Bros-Foundation-Affordable-Rental-Housing-Preservation-Award.html
Guacolda Reyes of The Resurrection Project (TRP) accepted The 2014 Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project at the Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards on Feb. 20, 2014.
TRP won the award for its Back of the Yards Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative, in which it creatively used federal funds to reclaim and rehabilitate foreclosed properties to save homes, enhance property values, create jobs and in doing so create a more stable and cohesive community. Learn more and see the project video here: http://www.lisc-cnda.org/Past-winners/20th-CNDA-Winners/The-Richard-H-Driehaus-Foundation-Award-for-Outstanding-Non-Profit-Neighborhood-Real-Estate-Project.html
The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Strategy of the Year Award ($20,000) -- To the University of Chicago Arts & Public Life Initiative, which in collaboration with the community created a new 55th Street Arts Incubator that enhances the neighborhood by serving local artists and encouraging arts education and involvement for all.
The PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award ($5,000) --
Lawrence Benito, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights -- For his demonstrated leadership in defending the rights of immigrants and refugees, from the successful effort to provide licenses for undocumented workers to his work on congressional acts concerning immigration reform.
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, First Place ($15,000) -- Landon Bone Baker Architects for Harvest Commons Apartments -- For their restoration and reconfiguration of a landmark building on Chicago's West Side into comfortable affordable living quarters for those who seek single occupancy residences (undertaken for Heartland Housing).
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, Second Place ($3,000) --
JGMA for Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy -- For their reconfiguration of a long-vacant factory building in PIlsen into a modern, well-lit high school that centers on health education as a pathway to college and work and stands as an icon of the neighborhood's commitment to the future (for Instituto Del Progreso Latino).
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design, Third Place ($2,000) --
Landon Bone Baker Architects for the Jackson at Woodlawn Park — For their design and execution of replacement housing for the long-deteriorating Grove Parc Plaza, which has provided fine quality housing for residents and a new gateway to the Woodlawn community (for Preservation of Affordable Housing).
The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award (a new award) ($15,000) -- Just Pay for All Coalition -- Only four years old, the Coalition's work to end wage theft and return stolen wages to workers has met with unrivaled success in both the legislative and regulatory arenas, for the first time providing protection to workers from unscrupulous employers.
A railroad viaduct divides Little Village and North Lawndale and creates a border between African-Americans and Latinos that is not supposed to be crossed. Here is Ashley Woods' recollection of the death of a man who crossed the tracks. (2006)
Carlos Maeda lives right underneath the air traffic of Chicago's Midway Airport, where the shriek of jet engines surrounds everyone for blocks. Though not a traveler himself, he reflects on other people's journeys, every day. (2006)
Keith Shine wants more for his neighborhood than a bad reputation. Look through the eyes of a Chicago teenager as he brings us to his favorite event of the summer: the annual basketball tournament at the Ickes Homes on Chicago's South Side. (2007)