Reconstruction in Woodlawn Brings Hope

Bill Eager, who is the Vice President of POAH, said the initiative to
reconstruct Woodlawn began more than 10 years ago, and now Eager
says Woodlawn is beginning to look better than before.

“In Woodlawn, collaborative community development investments and partnerships are having a dramatic impact on economic vitality and quality of life,” according to a Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) press release. “Population has increased by 15 percent, which

is the first increase in decades, new jobs are being created, the number of vacant properties has plummeted and violent crime has fallen by 40 percent.”

Bill Eager, who is the Vice President of POAH, said the initiative to reconstruct Woodlawn began more than 10 years ago, and Eager now says Woodlawn is beginning to look better than before.

“There was a failing Housing Development from 60th-63rd Cottage Grove called Grove Parc Plaza Apartments,” Eager said. “It was in very, very bad shape and it was in danger of being shut down and leaving residents evicted. So, residents and city officials met with POAH.”

Eager explained that POAH, which was based in Boston at the time, specializes in taking over Section-8 properties, rehabbing and operating them. He said this Housing situation was bigger than POAH’s normal

task. But Eager said POAH still decided to take over the property with the understanding that it would be redeveloped over time.

“Grove Parc was a very large 504 unit Section-8 property and people didn’t want to see that collapse,” Eager said. “At the same time, it was a very large undertaking and it was pretty daunting. Whoever took it over was in for a lot of expense and a lot of risk for a lot of years. But POAH saw it as its mission and an opportunity to enter a new market like Chicago.”

“While initially it was a housing preservation and renewal project, in 2011 POAH, in partnership with the City of Chicago, was awarded a $30.5 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which challenged them to use the funds as a springboard for community-wide renewal,” according to a (POAH) press release.

Eager said the new Housing Development was their main footprint but POAH wasn’t limited to helping reconstruct other areas in Woodlawn.

“Everyone who was a resident in Grove Parc was guaranteed a new home in Woodlawn so there would no displacements,” Eager said. “But what existed along

Cottage Grove was replaced with newer housing, mixed income housing and other mixed uses. It was a mix of new construction and rehab around the community.”

According to a (POAH) press release, POAH’s set goal by HUD was initially $210 million in investment money. But by the end of 2016, $400 million in new housing, retail, institutional and civic investment had been leveraged through POAH’s work.

Eager said there have been many phases of reconstruction with the Woodlawn Project and there are a few more phases to go. But he said the reconstruction of

Woodlawn will be complete in a matter of a few years.

“The anchor building of the innovative Transit-Oriented Development will feature 55 market-rate and affordable apartments, 15,000 square feet of retail space

adjacent to the CTA’s 63rd Street Green Line Station,” according to a (POAH) press release. “The development will also include two new buildings of 15 mixed-income

rental apartments at 6408 and 6432 South Maryland.”

Eager said the city of Chicago and other organizations have been really good to POAH and he said the entire project will continue to be a process based on time and resources.

“As you start to make a little progress, the community begins to look different,” Eager said. “I would say that the community has been patient with us and I think they have been largely supportive.”