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CNDA 2014 Award Recipients

Wed, Mar 12, 2014

(1) 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.

Washington Park has Chicago’s second highest poverty rate and a commercial vacancy rate of 26 percent, but to the U of C and Theaster Gates, it was nevertheless the perfect site for its Arts Incubator, the home base and nucleus of the University’s Arts & Public Life Initiative.

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Located at 301 E. Garfield Blvd. (Garfield and Prairie Avenue) the incubator is a formerly abandoned historic terra cotta two-story structure. The $1.85 million renovation completed in 2013 is a space for artist residences, arts education, community-based art projects and events. Its large windows, 10,000 square feet of studio space, wood shop and rooms for programming make the Incubator an ideal space for performance, creation and connectivity. In the first six months after its opening, the Incubator hosted more than 40 events: jazz and blues concerts, community meetings, public lectures.

(2) The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project ($15,000)

To The Resurrection Project for their Back of the Yards Neighborhood Stabilization Initiative, in which they 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.

With a $13.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) The Resurrection Project worked with local parishes and organizations, including the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, to identify, acquire and develop 40 foreclosed and vacant properties throughout the neighborhood. Ten buildings in extremely poor condition were demolished. The remainder required extensive gut rehab, including replacement of electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. Fifteen buildings were renovated as affordable for-sale homes, including 11 two-flats and four single-family homes Another 15 properties – two-flats, three-flats, four-flats and six-flats — were redone as rentals. To complement its rehab, The Resurrection Project provided financial literacy and homeownership classes to strengthen families and the community. As blighted properties were transformed, neighbors on surrounding blocks began fixing up their own houses.

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(3) The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award ($15,000)

Voice of the People of Uptown and the Chicago Community Development Corporation for Hazel Winthrop Apartments, in which this oldest of Chicago’s neighborhood development organizations used new financial tools and alliances to preserve affordable housing in a changing community.

When Hazel Winthrop Apartments fell into disrepair, a consortium of groups led by Chicago Community Development Corp. and Voice of the People (VOP) preserved and renovated 30 affordable apartments in four vintage scattered site buildings.

VOP sought input of residents through a series of community meetings; ultimately repairs included installation of new kitchens, windows, appliances, security systems and state of the art technology labs and fitness centers.

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To keep the development affordable, the city provided an assortment of funding mechanisms: HOME, TIF, tax exempt bonds and 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits. HUD later extended the Section 8 rental assistance contract while providing mortgage insurance. VOP and Chicago Community Development Corp. served as co-general partners, maintaining ownership interest in the development.

(4) The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award

Related Companies for Parkway Gardens Homes –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.

Parkway Gardens at 6415 S. Calumet Ave. was built in 1946 as a 13-acre coop with winding paths. Its 700 units in nearly 35 buildings were choice housing for doctors, lawyers and other African-American professionals because of redlining. Like its surrounding neighborhood, however, Parkway Gardens suffered from decades of disinvestment.

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When it came on the market in 2010, the scope of the project intimidated developers. Related Companies, however, purchased it in 2011 for what became a $106 million rehab project. They repaired potholed sidewalks, leaking sanitary systems, insect and rodent infestation and cracked bricks. They also repainted units and common corridors, re-did flooring and updated kitchens and bathrooms with new cabinets and fixtures. The company upgraded green spaces and parking lots while maintaining historically significant landscape features and installed playgrounds and barbeque areas on site. They worked closely with Chicago Police to address gangs and hired an outreach worker to make sure kids were engaged. With investment by Related, the City of Chicago’s PlayStreets program that allowed children and their parents to participate in structured athletics was expanded to year-round. The developers also donated a new athletic field to the adjacent elementary school attended by 90 percent of the students who live at Parkway.

(5) The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award (a new award) ($15,000) recognizes an organizing campaign that has achieved and sustained a victory that improves the vitality of a community and/or positively affects the quality of life of a group of people.

For developing a successful grassroots campaign for fairness and advancing a movement for justice, the first-ever award goes to the Just Pay for All Coalition.

The Just Pay for All Coalition was formed in 2009 to combat “wage theft:” the failure to pay workers their earned wages or just paying substantially reduced wages. To fight back, the Latino Union, the Chicago Workers Collaborative, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos: Immigrant Workers Project and Working Hands Legal Clinic formed the Just Pay for All Coalition. Ultimately their efforts helped to amend the Illinois Wage Payment and Collections Act (IWPCA). Led by State Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), and State Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Lombard) the Illinois General Assembly passed five amendments that dramatically increased penalties to deter wage theft and to create an administrative small claims process to allow victims to prosecute their own claims efficiently.

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Advocates accepting the award thanked funders for providing the resources to help them take victims down to Springfield to tell their story and for providing materials used later in outreach and education to nearly 2000 workers in Chicago and Indiana. In 2012 $6.2 million in stolen wages were recovered.

In 2013, the Just Pay Coalition also played a key role in passage of a new wage theft ordinance in Chicago, one of the first such municipal ordinances in the U.S.

(6) 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.

Opened in 1930 as the Union Park Hotel, the building at 1519 W. Warren Blvd. is a Chicago landmark and classic example of Art Deco design. But in later years, it had slid into decline. Mayor Richard M. Daley preserved it as affordable housing in 2005, and the city issued a request for proposals in 2008. Hired by Heartland Housing, Landon Bone Baker reduced the number of units from 150 to 89 studios as permanent supportive housing for those who are near-homeless or previously incarcerated.

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The new name is because residents will be able to rebuild their lives through urban agriculture. In addition to a garden – and a chicken coop!– that provide therapeutic opportunities for residents, there is a teaching kitchen where residents can take classes in nutrition and food preparation as well as a social enterprise café.

During renovation of the lobby, architects uncovered long-buried motifs of flowers and ears of corn. They also looked to old documents to retain the building’s integrity as they renovated the front stairway and exterior façade. A security guard working with the contractor told one of the architects, “This building is like Rip Van Winkle. It was asleep all these years and now it’s alive and kicking.”

(7) 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.

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The 77,000-square foot building at 2520 S. Western Ave. opened in 2010 as a charter school for the next generation of doctors, nurses, informatics professionals and bio-technicians. The school was the result of discussions started in 2008 by Instituto del Progreso Latino and stakeholders in high-demand
industries. Architects at JGMA expanded and repurposed the 1920s-era brick and heavy timber building, and added a color-changing façade, or “rain screen,” that improves the thermal performance – energy efficiency – of the building’s envelope.

Instituto President Juan Salgado said the rain screen also evokes the transformative experience of the school.

“From an architect’s perspective, we all want that ‘tabula rasa’ to do as we wish but that is not always the case,” architect Juan G. Moreno in his acceptance speech regarding the previously unwanted building that nevertheless became “a springboard to transformational ideas.”

When the building was finally completed, Moreno said he attended the lottery for attendance slots. “When the students’ names were called, you could see tears of joy in their parents’ eyes. That is the power of architecture. When you drop by on a Friday night, you see the lights on at 10 o’clock. It is a vibrant building, a part of the community.”

Moreno told how a student had heard him talking about the building. “ ‘You keep talking about this being old and transformed to new. I always thought it was a new building.’ ”

“All I said was, ‘thank you,’” Moreno said.

(8) 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, 6101 S. Evans Ave., which has provided a new gateway to the Woodlawn community.

Developed by Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), the Jackson consists of 67 apartments in two three-story walk-up buildings off Cottage Grove Avenue. Just steps from the elevated train and along several major bus routes, the Jackson is a transit-oriented development. After the original development was threatened with foreclosure in 2007, the new mixed income housing needed to attract market rate residents. The architects responded with large windows (and screening to prevent people from looking in), naturally lit stairwells, landscaped areas; a tot lot; a common outdoor grill and social area; a community room; private exterior play areas for each of the three-bedroom units. To address gang activity and violence, the architects eliminated “cut-throughs” between the alley and the street, emphasized the main entrance; reduced dark corridors and indoor stairwells and raised buildings two feet above grade.

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(9) 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 drivers’ licenses for undocumented workers to his work on congressional acts concerning immigration reform.

As an immigrant worker in California in the 1930s, Benito’s immigrant grandfather was regularly greeted by signs that read, “no Filipinos allowed.” When his own parents arrived in Chicago three decades later, he remembered family history. After earning an economics degree from Marquette University and a master’s in social work from Loyola University, he joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), a coalition of 135 diverse organizations founded in the wake of the 1986 program to grant undocumented workers legal status. He became its CEO in 2012. In the past decade, ICIRR has engaged in effective organizing and voter registration drives that have resulted in significant clout. The organization has been a persistent voice for immigration reform.

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(10) The Richard M. Daley Friend of the Neighborhoods Award

Raul Raymundo, The Resurrection Project – For his leadership in Chicago’s neighborhoods and beyond, and his tireless commitment to improving the lives of working families.

Raymundo and his family emigrated to Pilsen when he was 7 and he returned there after studying sociology at Carleton College in Minnesota. In 1990, with the help of six Catholic parishes, he co-founded The Resurrection Project (TRP) with just $30,000 in seed capital.

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TRP has since raised and leveraged more than $600 million to strengthen Pilsen through the development of 600 units of affordable housing, several community facilities such as child care centers, financial literacy centers and a charter high school. When youth and other community leaders wanted to address the challenges first generation college students face, TRP created LaCasa, a community-based dormitory that combines affordable housing with wraparound support services to help students graduate from college. When the failure of Second Federal Savings put 1,100 homeowners at risk and threatened neighborhood stability, Raymundo and TRP secured the partnerships to rescue it. Now Second Federal is the largest community development credit union in Illinois.

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