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The organization Network of Woodlawn is looking to develop a new center on the South Side. It will be used to showcase the life and culture of Black Chicagoans.
The Apostolic Church of God is located in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side. The center’s organizers are led by developer J. Byron Brazier and his father, Rev. Byron Brazier. J. Byron believes that the advancement of the Black community starts from within.
We want to share our experiences and our unique perspectives with the world, just like every other culture gets the opportunity to do.
The Chicago center would be called Woodlawn Central and take up eight acres of church-owned property. In addition, the church plans to build properties near 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue. These could include a technology center, a theater, and commercial business spaces. There are also plans for a vertical farm to be built on a parking structure on Kenwood Avenue and 63rd Street.
The area will have a hotel and private residential buildings with units reserved for senior housing. Thirty percent of them will be affordable housing because of the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance.
It states that a certain number of homes should go to families making 30-50 percent of Woodlawn’s median income of $25,450. However, this does not guarantee that the rent will be affordable for most. The Woodlawn Affordable Housing Initiative could cause the center to include 15 apartments for $543 a month and another 15 at $942 a month. In addition, thanks to a possible zoning change, 870 studio-to-three bedroom units could be built. A pool with views from the lake could also be a result of the change, according to the Braziers.
Plans for solar power and a rainwater system will help keep the center environmentally responsible. In addition, companies like FullStack Modular will complete housing units off-site and assemble them on location using modular technology. This technology cuts out 35% of the cost and reduces the time by 45%, making the project more efficient.
Center Addresses Chicagoan’s Need
Woodlawn Central is intended to serve as a space to showcase the community’s thriving culture. In addition, organizers see the center as a bonus to Woodlawn since it can attract tourists from the Obama Presidential Center not too far away. They also hope the project would encourage higher-earning individuals to become tenants in the area.
It has to be a multi-income community. We have to figure out what the best opportunities are for that to make sure there’s sustainability for the church and that there’s also sustainability for the community.
The center’s goal is to promote Black entrepreneurship in Chicago. Brazier believes Black business ownership should be much larger than it is given Black people’s “contributions to this country.”
The lack of accessibility to monetizing and getting the capital support for Black entrepreneurs and creators and innovators is probably the thing that I feel like we miss out on the most.
The developers will announce the occupants of the center’s spaces and more details about those involved sometime this year. Groundbreaking will begin in 2023, and the project is expected to be completed by 2028. The total cost is between $300 to $600 million, and the Braziers have multiple donors willing to put up funding. They hope to reach an agreement on a partnership by the end of the year.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Cathy Milne-Ware
WBBM: South Side church looks to develop hub for Black life
Chicago Sun-Times: South Side church looks to develop hub for Black life; by Cheyanne M. Daniels
City of Chicago: Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance
All Images Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License