Woodlawn gets $30.5 mil for urban renewal

A $30.5 million grant from the federal government will revamp subsidized housing in Woodlawn.

By Kelsey Reid

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has granted the city of Chicago $30.5 million to redevelop the University’s neighboring Woodlawn community, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in August.

Chicago is one of just five cities to receive the federal grant under HUD’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative. The city will target Grove Parc Plaza, a 504-unit HUD-assisted housing complex at 61st Street and South Evans Avenue. The plaza’s landlords, a nonprofit organization called Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), will partner with the city during the project.

“It’s not just about housing. It’s about creating economic opportunities, good schools, and providing services so the neighborhood can move forward. It’s a total concept of support that will then allow people in the housing to succeed in school, work, and their families,” POAH Communications Manager Maria Plati said.

An August 31 press release from the mayor’s office named the U of C a community partner that will help redevelop the neighborhood.

As a part of the project, several federally subsidized Section 8, or low-income, housing units in Grove Parc will be converted to mixed-income housing. For every Section 8 housing unit that is demolished there, a new Section 8 unit will open in the new Woodlawn South Center. The Center was completed in August, and allows there to be a 1:1 ratio of Section 8 and mixed-income housing in Woodlawn.

Third-year Olivia Woolham, a member of the advocacy group Southside Solidarity Network (SSN), said that affordable housing continues to be an issue of concern in the Woodlawn neighborhood. In 2003 and 2004, SSN members fought to maintain affordable housing units in Grove Parc.

“I’m excited Woodlawn is seen as a hopeful development,” Woolham said, who is a member of the SSN’s Affordable Housing Association. “Revitalizing the neighborhood is frequently seen as fancy condos sold to people with lots of money. It’s good these [units] are made for people from the neighborhood.”