From the POAH Chicago Office  
Bill Eager, Senior Vice President, POAH Chicago
While Woodlawn's revival and future are the subject of so much media interest, too often what's missed are the efforts and achievements of those who have shouldered the latest successes. It's time to change that.

Among those who need to be remembered and honored is Mattie Butler. Long before the Obama Presidential Center came along, before the Community Benefits Agreement debates, Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN) founder and leader Mattie Butler was fighting for affordable housing here. Decades later, she's still at it.

Over the decades WECAN transformed four buildings (that are now in the shadow of the planned presidential center) into 135 apartments for people who otherwise would likely be relegated to substandard housing, or even homelessness.

In 2017, ever concerned with the future of Woodlawn and its people, Butler took several important steps. WECAN sold 106 of its apartments to POAH, knowing that our organization is committed to long-term affordability of our housing. At the same time, the proceeds from the sale assured WECAN that it could continue its advocacy work long into the future on stable financial footing.

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New Housing and Condos Planned 
for 62nd & Cottage Grove

POAH's commitment to the renewal of Woodlawn goes far beyond what POAH itself can do. Rather, as a matter of principle and as part of the Choice Neighborhood Grant that was awarded to the organization in 2011, POAH often partners with other entities and entrepreneurs to create the mixed-income housing, stores, recreation and institutions that all healthy communities need.

This thinking has produced 244 apartments and retail spaces that now line the west and east sides of Cottage Grove, and 550 refurbished apartments in the surrounding neighborhoods - many in formerly-distressed buildings. It has also produced the first full-service grocery in decades, the first primarily market- rate rental building, the city's first inner-city squash courts and the wonderful mixed-income, mixed-use Woodlawn Station that houses the nearly 100-year-old Daley's restaurant.
This October, POAH and Woodlawn took another step forward, selling the last two available parcels of the former Grove Parc to Premium Builders - a developer who has long worked in the neighborhood. The two parcels of land at 62nd and Cottage Grove had long been slated for market rate dwellings. Finally, nearly ten years since the old housing came down, Premium stepped up with a proposal to build 44 market rate
for-sale apartments on the site. 

"One of the most exciting things about Woodlawn is its mix of housing," says POAH Vice President Konrad Schlater, who brokers the deal with Premium. "Rarely do you see the block by block mix of affordable rental and market-rate, homeowner housing that you do here. That said, all are delighted to see homeownership come to Cottage Grove itself, which simply strengthens the fabric of the neighborhood and helps achieve the neighborhood's goal of maintaining Woodlawn as a place for everyone," added Schlater.

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Local Lumber Mill Recycles Ash Trees to Create New Skills and Products

Credit: Tom Rossitor

While local trees felled by the Emerald Ash Borer have decimated the natural landscape of many neighborhoods, renowned Chicago artist Theaster Gates has turned this misfortune into a positive community development activity.  A former ComEd substation at 6913 South Kenwood Avenue, which Theaster converted into a lumber mill in 2016 is now providing under-employed residents opportunities to acquire and hone new skills that come from recycling the fallen trees and turning them into new products. 

Greenwood Park Apartments is "Green Again"

In early October, residents from the Greenwood Park Apartments and the Kenwood community joined volunteers from Openlands, a local conservation organization committed to protecting natural spaces, to plant dozens of new trees which replaced ones decimated by the Emerald Ash Borer. 

The tree planting in open spaces at Greenwood Park Apartments where the once healthy Ash trees were removed in 2016 was the finishing touch on the renovation of the 46-year old, low-rise affordable rental apartment complex - the first substantial renovation in the buildings' history. In addition to enlisting volunteers, Openlands provided the trees, tools, mulch and training.

Meet Woodlawn Chef Bernita M. Outlaw and Her New Shakespear Rose Culinary Kitchen

A native of Chicago's ABLA community on the city's West Side and a Woodlawn resident since 2014, Bernita Outlaw's passion for cooking and food led her to launch her own full-service catering business- the Shakespear Rose Culinary Kitchen at 6246 St. Lawrence Ave. Once it opens in early 2020, Chef Outlaw will offer a wide range of foods for special events and conferences, as well as family-style meals anyone can enjoy at home. 

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POAH | 1 North LaSalle Street | Suite 1750 | Chicago, IL 60602 | 312-283-0030 | [email protected]