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A rendering of the proposed Sankofa Wellness Village Center.

A rendering of the proposed Sankofa Wellness Village Center.

Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative

West Side group wins $10M to create walkable village with grocery stores, arts center, clinic

The Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative plans to build a walkable village in West Garfield Park, and its project will get $10 million from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation as part of the foundation’s 2022 Chicago Prize.

Leaders from the foundation announced the winner Thursday afternoon.

The group was one of six South and West side finalists for the prize that were announced last year.

Its project, the Sankofa Wellness Village, will allow residents to be no more than 15 minutes from what they need — from health care and groceries to arts and entertainment.

“In choosing this remarkable project, we were struck by the enormous disparity between life expectancies in West Garfield Park compared to other parts of our city,” Bryan Traubert, co-founder and trustee of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, said in a news release. “This strong grass roots community-led proposal inspired us with their bold vision to address those disparities by bringing needed and essential services to West Garfield Park that are frankly taken for granted in many other parts of the city.”

The choice between the six finalists was a “really tough decision,” said Cindy Moelis, president of Pritzker Traubert Foundation. The West Garfield Park project had the key factors for the prize’s recipient — community impact, committed partners and feasibility.

“West Garfield checked all the boxes, but they really impressed the selection committee because they had a collaboration with both institutions and community-led organizations and residents that made us really inspired,” said Moelis. “They addressed community needs, as well as being innovative. They also brought along institutions like Rush (University Medical Center), Erie (Family Health Centers) and the YMCA with resources that were committed to these projects.”

A rendering of the arts center at 4241 W. Washington, which occupies the former space of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

A rendering of the arts center at 4241 W. Washington, which occupies the former space of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative

A statement Thursday from the West Side group said, “We speak for the entire West Garfield Park community in saying we are overwhelmed and gratified upon learning that the Sankofa Wellness Village has won.”

“Let us be clear: It is the community, supported by wonderful partners, who have made this moment possible—their vision, engagement, input and commitment have powered this effort.”

The Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative’s inspiration for the project comes from the idea of Sankofa, a term from West Africa that means to go back for what has been lost, Ayesha Jaco, the executive director of a healthcare and development group, told the Sun-Times in October. Jaco’s group, West Side United, is part of the collaborative.

For Garfield Park, the group plans to go back for what has been lost through poor access to things such as fresh produce, affordable health care and banking opportunities. “This is a commitment to undo decades of disinvestment,” Jaco said.

Under the Garfield Park group’s proposal, five sites would be developed, covering an area bound by Washington Boulevard to the north, Garfield Park to the east, the Eisenhower Expressway to the south and Kostner Avenue to the west.

Three of the sites would sit on Madison Street, including a business incubator at Madison and Kostner; a 60,000-square-foot village center with a clinic, fitness center and credit union at Madison and Kildare Avenue; and a grocery store at Madison and Garfield Park.

Plans also include remodeling of the shuttered St. Barnabas Episcopal Church into an arts center at Washington and Kildare and opening a Save A Lot at Pulaski and the expressway.

By creating a walkable village, the group hopes to address the life expectancy gap in the area — about 12 years less than the expected 80 years for a resident in the Loop, according to the Chicago Health Atlas.

A planning document for the project aims to improve the health of residents in the next five years, including serious psychological problems and decreasing deaths associated with pregnancy.

“When you want to create longstanding stability, you have to heal from the inside out,” Theo Crawford, executive director of the collaborative, told the Sun-Times in October. “We need to make sure we have an environment that will produce healthy individuals.”

The remaining five finalists — Cultivate Collective in Garfield Ridge, The Xchange in Greater Grand Crossing, Rooted and Rising in Back of the Yards, Bringing Communities Back Initiative in the Far South Side and Thrive Exchange in South Shore/South Chicago — are eligible to solicit support from other donors.

If the groups show they are close to a finished project, the proposals will be eligible for a half million dollars each from the foundation. We Rise Together has also committed to putting up funds to go to the remaining five finalists as well.

Foundation leadership hopes that what was achieved by the winners and finalists of previous Chicago Prizes can be replicated with the Sankofa Wellness Village and the other five finalists.

“We’re also hoping the other five ideas are able to [garner support] as well,” Moelis said. “We’re hopeful by highlighting six big ideas, it’s not just West Garfield .... all of those neighborhoods are going to get some infusion of capital and see some progress on their proposals.”

The Chicago Sun-Times receives funding from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.

Mariah Rush and Michael Loria are staff reporters at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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