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Urban Equities, Inc., is a full-service real estate development and project management firm with a 28-year track record of adding beauty and vitality to disinvested communities across Chicago. A $100,000 grant from the Trust’s Pre-Development Fund allows this skilled developer to complete a new vision for Soul City Place. Spread over 35,000 square feet of vacant land in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, this development will deliver six six-flats consisting of family-size condominiums and ground-floor retail/commercial spaces. The project will bring much-needed for-sale housing, which supports wealth generation through homeownership. On this stretch of Chicago Avenue known as Austin’s “Main Street,” the commercial spaces will create new, local jobs and drive entrepreneurship for Austin businesses.

Although the Pre-Development Fund is a grant opportunity, for-profit developers like Urban Equities are welcome to apply if they meet certain criteria. Applicants must have under $10 million in annual revenues, a positive history of work in and with communities of color, and a nonprofit sponsor. With its extensive experience in affordable housing, nonprofit facilities, and other community-based developments—particularly Opportunity Zones—Urban Equities has demonstrated its commitment to helping communities of color grow and thrive.

Soul City Place sits along a CTA bus route and is just a short walk from two Green Line stops. This transit-oriented development site is well-positioned to bring customers and commerce to a neighborhood that has lost an estimated $160 million to outside retail spending. The Trust pre-development grant has allowed Urban Equities to extend its pre-existing purchase-sale contract on the privately owned lot while completing its vision and strategy for a 21st century, mixed-use facility. Attractive for-sale condo units, retail, and cultural space are all part of the developer’s plans. Urban Equities closed on the site in July 2021 and expects to complete the development in 2022.

“We imagine modern, eco-friendly structures that will stand as symbols of reinvestment, fostering innovation, entrepreneurship, and a ‘commitment-to-stay’ mindset for current and future Austin residents,” says Lennox G. Jackson, founder and CEO of Urban Equities. The development will also include sustainability features such as a green roof, native landscaping, solar energy, and EV charging stations.

The Trust grant is helping Urban Equities align its plans for Soul City Place with “The Soul City Corridor Development Framework,” a pre-existing community development plan for Chicago Avenue the Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) has been leading since 2017. While working in partnership with AAABNA to finalize its vision, Urban Equities has been able to attract bank lender interest while also applying for additional funding available through INVEST South/West, the City of Chicago’s targeted neighborhood development plan. Soul City Place is located in the Austin corridor of INVEST South/West and has the potential to make significant contributions to the shared goals of INVEST South/West and the long-term vision of AAABNA.