As a youngster, Craig Chico made improvements to an apartment building his grandfather lived in and owned in Back of the Yards.
Chico remembered helping to paint and knock down walls to make the 100-year-old, multi-flat building in the 4500 block of South Marshfield Avenue a better place for its hard-working tenants.
“It wasn’t luxurious, but it was clean and nice,” he said.
The complex, like others, represented promise for immigrants moving into the South Side neighborhood, Chico said.
“It’s for people from around the world with a value system of the old American dream, where people come here to work hard to get ahead for their kids,” Chico said.
Today, the 63-year-old president of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council hopes to help others realize that dream with a $61 million project that will include affordable housing, a health care clinic, performance space and more at 4630 S. Ashland Ave.
“We want it to be a place where people can go and do more than one thing,” Chico said.
The Back of the Yards group hopes to get help for the project as a contender for the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s $10 million Chicago Prize 2022. The prize is part of a larger $30 million commitment by the foundation to increase development over the next three years on the South and West sides.
The group is one of six finalists for the prize. The winner will be announced in December.
“The theme of this entire project is to create a family hub,” said Matt Mosher, co-founder of Park Row Development, the group overseeing construction.
The project would redevelop a vacant big box store on Ashland and parking lot on Marshfield into a 200,000-square-foot building with 90 affordable, mostly two or three-bedroom apartments.
“The city is becoming more and more unaffordable, so this is a chance for people to stay in the city,” Mosher said.
The development would be about a block away from the INVEST South/West’s planned retail development at 1515 W. 47th St.
The building, designed by local firm JGMA, would have sections eight and five stories tall on Ashland Avenue. It also would have outdoor spaces on its roof and a ground-level courtyard formed by the C shape of the building.
Construction would begin in spring 2023 and wrap up about fall 2024, Mosher said.
The building would house the neighborhood council, senior service provider Chicago Commons and anti-violence group Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.
“I expect it to be a unifying kind of project for our community,” said the Rev. David Kelly, founder of Precious Blood, based at 5114 S. Elizabeth St. “This is what we need.”
The Chicago Sun-Times receives funding from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.
Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times viaÂ Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.