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Old Pullman Wins at CNDA … As Do Young Leaders

From a fast-unfolding plan to redevelop the historic Pullman District on the Far South Side to the stunning rehab of a run-down SRO hotel on the North, the 2015 Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards had the city covered.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle moderated at youth panel at the 21st annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards ceremony.

Photos by Eric Young Smith

But most of all, the 21st annual CNDA event on Feb. 17 at the Chicago Hilton & Towers had the bouncing energy and boundless expectations of talented youth.

Or as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle put it: “Street violence may grab the headlines, but a majority of our young people are working hard to become responsible adults.”

Preckwinkle moderated the Forum panel discussion that, this year, featured four young overachievers active in mentoring city kids and running programs from street basketball to expungement of juvenile arrest records.

The four young adults shared insights about the pitfalls and the possibilities of growing up in Chicago, eliciting knowing nods from Preckwinkle, a former high school history teacher and a community development leader.

Members of the youth panel.

“We don’t have a ‘snitching’ problem,” said Berto Aguayo, a 20-year-old from Back-of-the-Yards who quit a street gang, finished high school, and is now student body president of Dominican University. “It’s a lack of trust problem between people in some neighborhoods and the police. We need to overcome that.”

The evening’s main event, as always managed by LISC Chicago, was the honoring of last year’s top achievements – and achievers – in the field of community development. There are five CNDA project categories, along with first-, second- and third-place “Driehaus” awards for excellence in community design, plus two special recognitions for personal achievement.           

“Tonight we celebrate what is best and most inspiring in the field of neighborhood development,” explained Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director, in welcoming some 1,400 attendees. “These are the people, places and projects that make neighborhoods the greatest part of this great city.”

The envelope, please

Listed below, in order of presentation, are winners of the 2015 Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, along with thumbnail descriptions and links to further details:

The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Strategy of the Year Award:

Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives for its Pullman Revitalization Strategy, an effort that began with grassroots outreach and is unfolding now with a retail and industrial park along I-94 … and to the west continued revitalization of the Pullman Historic District – now being designated a National Historic Monument by President Barack Obama.     

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project:

Thresholds for its Fred and Pamela Buffett Place, a dramatic conversion of the dreary and vacated Diplomat Hotel at Belmont and Sheffield into a warm, sunlit and nurturing home for 51 clients of the state’s largest provider of mental health services.

The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award:

Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation for the 1704 N. Humboldt Building, a sprawling yellow-brick courtyard walk-up on a historic boulevard saved from condo conversion in the mid-80s and newly refurbished so as to provide stability and affordability for its 29 limited-income tenant families.   

Skilken's Frank Petruziello and QCDC's Bernita Johnson-Gabriel accepting the Outstanding For-profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project award.

The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award:

Skilken Development Co. and Troy Enterprises for The Shops & Lofts at 47, a testament to 10 years of never-give-up perseverance not only by the Ohio-based developers, but the city and the LISC-affiliated Quad Communities Development Corp. A new Walmart and 96 stylish mixed-income apartments now quicken the pulse of Bronzeville’s still-beating commercial heart.

The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award:

Albany Park Neighborhood Council for the VOYCE Project, a gathering of high school student leaders from four neighborhoods across the city and an effort that has campaigned for, and is winning , public disclosure and state oversight of all-too-common student suspensions and expulsions.   

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards for Architectural Excellence in Community Design:

First PlaceA double winner this year, Landon Bone Baker Architects for Fred and Pamela Buffett Place, a project that began with broad community input, that pulled in creative partners ranging from archi-treasures to the ReBuilding Exchange to the Chicago Botanic Garden, and that turned a dank eyesore into a sun-splashed home for 51 developmentally disabled tenants.   

Second Place Weese Langley Weese Architects Ltd. for Grove Apartments in Oak Park, where their painstaking restoration and extension of a two-story auto showroom designed by famed industrial designer Albert Kahn yielded four-stories of cheery and affordable housing run by the Interfaith Housing Development Corp.  

Third PlaceWrap Architecture for Bronzeville Artist Lofts, another rediscovery of buried architectural gold, in this case a 1906 dairy depot’s trussed beam suspension that allowed creation of dramatic open gallery space on the ground floor and 16 work-live studios above … not to mention some needed pizzazz for east 47th Street. 

The PrivateBank Norman Bobins Leadership Award:

Sarah Ward, founder and executive director of the South Chicago Art Center, where since 2001 hundreds of youngsters come daily for instruction in the visual arts and, more importantly, the safe and constant support of caring adults. Under Sarah’s leadership, moreover, the Center is converting a vacant industrial building into bigger studios … and re-branding as “Skyart.”

The Richard M. Daley Friend of the Neighborhoods Award:

Earnest Gates, co-founder and executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corp., did not set out to create a citywide playbook for neighborhoods coping with mega-developments or the drastic redevelopment of public housing. But he did just that, first by organizing local residents and negotiating a series of neighborhood improvements around the new United Center, then by developing programs to help former CHA high-rise tenants adjust to life in mixed-income townhouses. In his spare time Earnest also became a godfather of youth sports on the Near West Side.

“Virtually everyone here tonight has been doing something – large or small – to advance the cause of neighborhood improvement,“ said Louise Perrin, the State Farm Insurance senior v.p. who chaired the 21st annual CNDA ceremony.

Winners all around

This year’s awardees may be a select bunch, but Louise Perrin, senior vice president of State Farm Insurance and chair of this year’s CNDA, reminded that, in a very real sense, the Hilton‘s International Ballroom was full of winners.

“Virtually everyone here tonight has been doing something – large or small – to advance the cause of neighborhood improvement,“ Perrin said. “You are all winners because you understand that Chicago can't be truly ‘world class’ unless all of our neighborhoods do what it takes for our children to succeed.”

This year’s CNDA was made possible in large measure by State Farm, but also by a host of other civic-minded corporations and philanthropies including: The Polk Bros. Foundation; The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation; The Chicago Community Trust; PNC Bank: Wintrust Financial; Woods Fund Chicago; The PrivateBank; Peoples Gas; MB Financial; JPMorgan Chase; BMO Harris Bank; Northern Trust; Citizen Commercial Banking; Bank of America; US Bank; Allstate Insurance; and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago.

Also supporting CNDA were Urban Partnership Bank; Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen, PC; University of Chicago; National Equity Fund; Brinshore Development; The Habitat Company; Pierce Family Foundation; Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago; Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council; Illinois Housing Council; Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives; Accion Chicago; Greater Good Studio; Mercy Housing; Community Investment Corporation; The CARA Program; Teska Associates, Inc.; Illinois Housing Development Authority; Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C.; The Chicago Bears; Wight & Company; Chicago Community Loan Fund; The Walsh Group; Wells Fargo; IFF; CohnReznick LLP; Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.; Greater Southwest Development Corporation; Lighten-Gale Group; The Community Builders, Inc.; Southwest Airlines; The Resurrection Project; Linn-Mathes Inc.; First Merit Bank; Camiros; Fifth Third Bank; The National Housing Partnership Foundation; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois; Preservation of Affordable Housing and Central States SER.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a regular keynote speaker at CNDA, had to call in sick with a re-election, campaign-induced case of laryngitis. Deputy Mayor Steven Koch filled-in, hailing LISC Chicago and everyone else involved in community development work.

“The awards have become a source of inspiration,” said Deborah Bennett, jury chair and senior program officer at the Polk Bros. Foundation. “They’re how we celebrate outstanding projects and achievements and honor the role developers play in building healthier neighborhoods throughout Chicago.”


Posted in Housing, Placemaking


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