Written by Samantha Kearney
February is Black History Month, and this week's newsletter highlights homes and buildings related to prominent Black figures: the renovation of the Rosenwald Court Apartments, Muddy Waters' vacant house, and the Carter G. Woodson Library.
Rosenwald Court Apartments
This expansive series of Grand Boulevard apartments that completely occupy a city block was built in 1929, funded by Sears & Roebuck's president Julius Rosenwald to affordably house black workers from The Great Migration. For the architect, Rosenwald hired his nephew Ernest Grunsfeld, Jr., who also designed the Adler Planetarium. The Rosenwald's 421 units housed many families and individuals over its' decades of operation, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Nat King Cole, Quincy Jones, and Joe Louis. The Rosenwald was vacated in 2000 due to building violations, added to the National Trust’s “Eleven Most Endangered” list in 2003, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, and included in Preservation Chicago's "Chicago Seven" endangered list in 2007. People strongly felt that these buildings must be revived, and soon.
Fortunately, the Rosenwald is now undergoing renovations. The building permits estimate construction costs between $53,200,000 and $57,200,000 to build 120 senior units and 86 family units. Additionally, there will be 40,000 sf of retail and office space, 150 parking spaces, and a two acre courtyard. Funding sources include:
- Tax Exempt Bonds
- Tax Increment Financing
- LIHTC and Historic Preservation Tax Credit Equity
- State Donation Credits
- Neighborhood Stabilization Funds
- Public Housing Capital Funds
- Seller Financing
- DCEO Energy Grant
- FHLB AHP Grant
- Pre-development funds by JCUA
Many organizations, government agencies, and private firms are cooperating to make this revival happen. According to the Lightengale Group, the primary partners are Iceberg Development, RCAP LP, Lightengale Group, and DR Rosenwald. The general contractors include George Sollitt Construction Company, Powers & Sons, and Brown & Momen. ERS Enterprises & Strategic Precision Management are responsible for compliance and community outreach. Hooker DeJong, Inc and for the 3-story by John Joyce Architects, Inc. are the architects. MacRostie Historic Advisors LLC are the historic preservation consultants, and DLA Piper and Charity & Associates are the lawyers. Financing primarily comes from the City of Chicago, Citi Community Capital, Chicago Housing Authority, Two Rivers Bank & Trust, federal historic preservation tax credits, and Credit Capital/ The Richman Group. Once complete, the Rosenwald will be managed by Mercy Housing.
Renderings and floorplans show that the interiors will be gutted, but the exteriors will be fully restored. Rents will be between $450 and $850 for 1 and 2 bedroom units, and interest in office and retail space is expected to materialize soon.