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Woodlawn’s 40 Year Fresh Food Drought Moves One Step Closer to Ending

August 17, 2017

A signal that Woodlawn’s resurgence as a national model for neighborhood renewal is continuing, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) received Chicago Plan Commission approval today to move forward with developing the first full-service grocery in Woodlawn in more than 40 years.  Plans for the new 48,000 square foot Jewel-Osco store at the corner of 61st Street and South Cottage Grove mark POAH’s latest development in Woodlawn along the South Cottage Grove Corridor, the gateway to the future home of the Obama Presidential Center 

The new Jewel-Osco project is a joint venture of Terraco and DL3 Realty who will buy the lot from POAH later this year and begin construction in either late 2017 or early 2018.  The development will eliminate a food desert, create more than 200 jobs and include 160 parking spaces, 2 loading spaces, and a pharmacy drive-through window.  Today’s City approval will enable site preparation to commence for the new $20 million, Jewel-Osco store on the 3.5 acre site.  With today’s approval in place, the project next goes to the City Council Committee on Zoning on Sept. 11, 2017. 

“We are looking forward to the new retail development that will provide local residents with access to the amenities and services that have for so long been missing from Woodlawn and the neighborhood’s fabric,” said Bill Eager, Vice President, POAH, the nonprofit community-based organization working to revitalize Woodlawn by preserving and improving affordable rental housing while creating mixed-income, mixed-used development projects.  

Today Woodlawn bears little resemblance to the once former economically challenged neighborhood it was just six year ago when the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded a $30.5 million Choice Neighborhood  Grant to POAH and the City of Chicago.  Since then they have turned the funds into more than $410 million of investments from public and private organizations for new housing, retail and community amenities to help revitalize Woodlawn.  The investments in the new developments have been instrumental in spurring the neighborhood’s 15% increase in population, the first in more than 50 years while crime has decreased. 

POAH has replaced deteriorating public housing with five new apartment complexes including: Trianon Lofts, the first primarily market rate apartment to be built in Woodlawn in over 50 years that is nearing completion; Woodlawn Station , a new transit-oriented development adding 70 mixed-income rental apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail adjacent to the Chicago Transit Authority’s train station; MetroSquash, a recreational and educational center that prepares young adults for college through mentoring and the game of squash; and the Woodlawn Resource Center, which offers digital learning and employment development services to the entire community.  

POAH’s community partners have developed a residence hall for University of Chicago students, created new dining, coffee shop and retail options and are constructing and renovating single-, and multi-family homes. 

“The return of a grocery store to Woodlawn, the increase in population and turning a $30 million federal grant into $410 million in new housing, stores, schools and more illustrates the difference that can be made by smart investments as part of a comprehensive and sustainable redevelopment strategy,” said Meghan Harte, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago.  

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Woodlawn Jewel, Roosevelt Square Library among projects approved by Chicago Plan Commission - Curbed Chicago