Affordable housing development is underway in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood

Affordable housing development is underway in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood
Construction of the new Woodlawn Park, formerly Grove Parc. WBEZ/Natalie Moore
Affordable housing development is underway in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood
Construction of the new Woodlawn Park, formerly Grove Parc. WBEZ/Natalie Moore

Affordable housing development is underway in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood

A long tussle between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and residents of a troubled, dilapidated housing development is over.

The Grove Parc development is on South Cottage Grove Avenue. The federal government wanted to foreclose the property and scatter residents throughout the city. The low-income residents wanted to stay put in the apartments and Woodlawn community.

Last year, HUD struck a deal with the Boston-based Preservation of Affordable Housing, or POAH. The nonprofit is redeveloping the apartments.

On Tuesday, city officials, residents and the new owners symbolically raised a new wall in the development’s first phase. It will be a mixed-income community called Woodlawn Park; and the current tenants can stay after all.

Amy Anthony, president of POAH, gave tribute to Bishop Arthur Brazier. The pastor emeritus of Apostolic Church of God died last week at age 89. Fifty years ago, Brazier helped develop Grove Parc as a way to ensure affordable housing for Woodlawn residents and stave off the University of Chicago’s physical encroachment into the neighborhood.

“I know I feel many different feelings. Part real excitement that we’ve gone to this place; the walls are rising. Certainly sadness that Bishop Brazier, who was with us from the very beginning and worked with us, has left us. But it is important to remember how much helped to bring us all together…and help move it closer to reality,” Anthony said. “We celebrate that contribution and I know we miss his presence very much.

Through the decades critics faulted Grove Parc’s design and the apartments’ deterioration.

In recent years, activists have fought to preserve Grove Parc, which is just south of the University of Chicago. Initially, HUD rejected those preservation pleas. It wanted to tear down housing known as project-based Section 8. Meanwhile, residents scoffed at HUD’s plan to give them vouchers to live elsewhere. Housing advocates lamented the loss of affordable housing in a gentrifying Woodlawn.

A combination of loan forgiveness, new loans and grants helped facilitate the redevelopment. HUD signed off on POAH coming in.

The first phase of redevelopment will be completed next year.

Highlights of new Woodlawn Park include: 67 new affordable market rental units; 420 mixed-income units; 80,000 sq. ft. of retail and a youth center.

“A lot of people been here through the good, bad. People deserve to have new homes, new surroundings,” said Teresa Walton, president of Grove Parc Tenants Association.