$7.4 Million in Grants to Support Neighborhood Investment

Ten organizations seek to transform eight disinvested communities.

CHICAGO (September 23, 2021) – We Rise Together: For an Equitable and Just Recovery today announced it has awarded $7.4 million in critical grant investments to support real estate developments in eight disinvested communities. The 10 projects, set back by the economic impact of COVID-19, will now move forward, unlocking approximately $70 million in stalled real estate developments. These projects have the potential to help catalyze change in the eight communities on the south and west side of Chicago and suburbs by accelerating an equitable recovery in neighborhoods that have experienced decades of disinvestment.

Communities on the south and west side of Chicago and suburbs, which never fully recovered from the Great Recession, were also among the most severely affected by the health and economic impact of COVID-19. We Rise Together is an accelerator to help ensure these predominately Black and Latinx communities hit hardest by the pandemic are not left behind.

“I am grateful to We Rise Together for their investment and continued commitment to uplifting our South and West Side communities and extend a hearty congratulations to the grant recipients who will undoubtedly bring meaningful change to our entire city,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “As we’re all painfully aware, our historically disinvested communities have borne the brunt of this crisis. Catalytic investments like this one gives us the resources we need to address this pressing issue, as well as lay the foundation for the creation of stronger and more socioeconomically resilient communities.”

Grant support will accelerate the development of projects that address the needs of Black and Latinx communities while also having a financial and social impact on the community. These grants are part of We Rise Together’s neighborhood investment strategy, which supports equitable economic recovery development projects that advance healthy and thriving communities.

“We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a foundation for a more sustainable, resilient and inclusive economy,” said Gloria Castillo, We Rise Together director. “The projects represented in this grant cycle will have a significant catalyzing impact on their surrounding communities and communicate that our city and region are coming back with a focus on equitable investments.”

We Rise Together, an initiative of The Chicago Community Trust, is proud to announce the following grant recipients, which have the potential to become both job creators and economic stimulators while also centering on the needs of the community:

Café Du Bois, Washington Heights: A multi-functional coffee shop will occupy a refurbished vacant building. It will provide three critical community amenities: 1) An employee-owned coffee shop and laundromat, 2) Community event and co-working space to satisfy the unmet need for local office and event venues, and 3) A space for pharmacy lockers to meet the demand for residents who, in the face of several recent store closures, face extended commutes to their nearest pharmacy.

ChiFresh Kitchen, Greater Grand Crossing: A Black-women-owned worker cooperative delivering freshly prepared meals is redeveloping a vacant building to expand its three lines of business, including retail, catering and food service contracting. ChiFresh Kitchen also plans to offer subsidized cold storage space to budding community organizations addressing food insecurity in the area.

Inner City Entertainment, South Shore: A social enterprise led by two Black women will transform a vacant building into a dining and entertainment experience, featuring: 1) Cinegrill, a seven-screen, dine-in cinema with a total capacity of 350 people, 2) Odessa’s Kitchen, a Creole-themed restaurant and retail marketplace, 3) AJ’s, an eight-lane, boutique bowling and billiards center, and 4) Penthouse71, a rooftop event space for up to 200 guests.

Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, Maywood, Ill.: The Village of Maywood is a food desert, but the cost of a build-out for a new grocery store has been identified as prohibitive to opening a store to serve the community. The grant will support the build-out of newly constructed commercial space inside an affordable housing complex to house a grocery store.

Justice of the Pies, Avalon Park: A successful, socially conscious Black-woman-owned business seeks to scale its operations by activating a vacant building with a production kitchen, retail counter and dine-in seating area, demonstration kitchen for culinary workshops, and workforce development and educational programming.

Latinos Progresando, South Lawndale: Latinos Progresando is acquiring and rehabbing a former Chicago Public Library branch that has been vacant since 2009, restoring it to its original community service purpose. The building will house a health clinic operated by Esperanza Health Centers, a federally qualified health center, and an after school program run by Lincoln Park Zoo. Additional services will include job training, business development, legal and social services.

North Lawndale Employment Network, North Lawndale: The campus development will bring together programs currently delivered at four separate locations. The campus will include a range of community-serving and economic development-related uses, including expanded classrooms, industry-specific training rooms, and computer labs; production and retail space for NLEN’s Sweet Beginnings LLC honey products social enterprise; a Financial Opportunity Center; a new retail bank branch; a community meeting room, peace garden, and garden plaza.

PODER Headquarters, Gage Park: The adaptive reuse project will serve as an immigrant integration and job training center, including English language and workforce development programming and other community and City of Chicago partner resources.

Urban Core, South Shore: The project will provide health and wellness services by restoring a vacant building. The anchor storefront will be a yoga studio, with the remaining storefronts consisting of businesses that support the organization’s mission of healthy living.

Xquina Incubator and Café, South Lawndale: The business incubator will positively impact the community by providing an open, accessible, and inclusive learning environment through programming and coaching that is both adaptable and culturally relevant. Public and private capital will redevelop approximately 13 thousand square feet of commercial retail, including a business incubator, co-working office, local cafe, and shared commercial kitchen.

“For more than 160 years, Bank of America and its predecessor banks have been champions for Chicago, working in tandem with our nonprofit partners to pave the way for a more equitable future for all Chicago residents,” said Paul Lambert, President, Bank of America Chicago. “It’s a true privilege to stand beside We Rise Together as we work to create sustainable change and to advance racial equity and economic opportunity across Chicagoland. We’ve seen firsthand the incredible work of the nonprofit organizations receiving grants in this cycle, and we look forward to witnessing the impact these grants will have on the communities in which they are deployed.”

Recognizing the urgency of the moment, the projects identified will be physical anchors around which We Rise Together will layer in additional investments to spur economic recovery.  Additional quarterly grant cycles will include investments in community anchor projects like these and opportunities to strengthen businesses of color and increase quality, resilient employment.

“We Rise Together is making important strides to ensure our city’s recovery from the pandemic is equitable and just,” said Sarah Glavin, Amazon’s Chicago Sr. Manager of External Affairs. “We are glad we could support the grant recipients in advancing their missions to unlock economic opportunity, meet pressing nutritional needs, address health disparities, and foster entrepreneurship in Black and Latinx communities throughout greater Chicago.”

Building upon lessons learned over the past 18 months, We Rise Together aims to accelerate equitable economic recovery for Black and Latinx communities by increasing employment opportunities, strengthening and expanding business opportunities, and accelerating development in neighborhoods that have suffered from decades of disinvestment. The initiative will expand its investment in a portfolio of high-impact real estate development projects in future funding rounds.

The September 2021 grants follow We Rise Together’s earlier $1.5 million commitment to the Fund for Equitable Business Growth and the Chicago Prize Finish Line Fund. The Fund for Equitable Business Growth leveraged grant support to fortify a marketplace of services for entrepreneurs through the BSO Collective Impact Initiative, which supports partnerships preparing entrepreneurs of color to absorb capital. The Finish Line Fund administered by Chicago TREND provided implementation support to accelerate investment-ready projects submitted by Chicago Prize 2020 Finalists.

We Rise Together is supported by a coalition of public, philanthropic, and private sector funders, which recently welcomed support from Amazon and Bank of America. To date, more than a dozen companies have committed philanthropic resources, which, alongside commitments from foundations and individuals, have raised over $38 million. To see a complete list of supporters and learn how individuals and organizations can contribute, visit www.cct.org/werisetogether.

About The Chicago Community Trust

The Chicago Community Trust is a community foundation dedicated to strengthening the Chicago region by creating equity, opportunity, and prosperity for all people who call it home. For more than 100 years, the Trust has united generous donors, committed nonprofits, and caring residents to effect lasting change. Thanks to our generous donors, in fiscal year 2020, more than 6,000 organizations received more than $613 million in funding from the Trust. Following the creation of a new strategic plan in 2019, the Trust stands committed to addressing Chicago’s legacy of systemic inequity and closing the racial and ethnic wealth gap while responding to our most vulnerable residents’ critical needs. To learn more, visit www.cct.org.