By Sarah Gold
JCUA Manager of Community Building
As part of my ‘initiation’ into my new role leading JCUA’s Community Ventures Program (CVP), I had the opportunity to visit and touch base with each of our current projects. Here is a snapshot of how JCUA’s loan fund is being used to make a difference by supporting three essential affordable housing and economic development projects throughout Chicago.
Breaking Ground – Rehabbing of Foreclosed homes
Breaking Ground, Inc. is a community-based organization on the west side of Chicago, which provides leadership development, manufacturing job training, and employment in construction and related fields to residents of Lawndale and Garfield Park. Breaking Ground is working to rehabilitate abandoned and foreclosed homes in West Lawndale, Berwyn, Bellwood, Maywood, and Austin. In 2011, JCUA provided a zero-interest loan of $90,000 to support housing redevelopment work.
As of today, Breaking Ground has leveraged the CVP loan and is redeveloping and selling 45 homes as follows:
► Sold – 26 units
► In construction / completed waiting to be sold – 13 units
► Under Contract to acquire – 6 units
JCUA’s loan is enabling Breaking Ground to continually rehab multiple properties at once. I had the opportunity to visit two homes, one under construction and one under contract to be sold. When visiting with Breaking Ground, Josh DeGraff, Director of Housing stated, “Without the much needed help from the JCUA loan keeping our contractors working we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the great things we have done in the Chicagoland affordable housing community during the past few years. We are very thankful for Breaking Ground’s partnership with JCUA.” Learn more about Breaking Ground.
Gracie’s Café – Employment Training Café of St. Leonard’s Ministries
Gracie’s Café is a social enterprise of St. Leonard’s Ministry (SLM), an organization that provides comprehensive residential, case management and employment development services for formerly incarcerated men and women. Partnering with SLM’s culinary training program, Gracie’s Café was opened in September 2013 to provide individuals with real world, culinary and business experience. In 2013 CVP loaned SLM $50,000 to ensure the steady operating of the business.
Today, walking into Gracie’s Café, you immediately feel welcomed into this bright and inviting space. The employees are friendly and prepare fresh and tasty food. Since opening, thirteen individuals have successfully completed the training program and four individuals work in the café. Of the thirteen who have graduated, ten are employed in places like Pete’s Market, Eataly and Little Miss Muffin. While working at Gracie’s Café, individuals not only get real, hands-on work experience, they get paid while doing it. They are given the necessary tools and support to explore different parts of the culinary industry and ultimately gain full-time employment. Gracie’s Café is a wonderful place to drink a cup of coffee, eat a delicious sandwich, and most of all, support the hard work of these individuals and SLM. Go visit the café at 1517 West Warren today! Learn more about Gracie’s Café.
Mayfair Commons – Affordable Senior Housing in Albany Park
The North River Commission’s (NRC) mission is to unite the community to improve the quality of life for all constituents by creating affordable housing, quality education, arts & cultural endeavors, open spaces, and stable neighborhood businesses. As part of a larger community development plan, NRC developed Mayfair Commons in the late 90’s, providing 97 total units of senior, affordable housing. In order to preserve the affordability of the senior housing, NRC requested a predevelopment loan of $100,000 in August of 2014 to help begin the preservation process.
NRC is using the CVP loan to create a redevelopment team and a plan of action for the preservation process. Because this process involves many different players and complex layers of both Federal and State funding sources, it is often difficult to secure early financing at this stage of the project. The CVP loan is enabling NRC to preserve the building’s affordability. When visiting the building, I had the opportunity to meet with Melissa McDaniel, NRC’s Program Director who is leading the way on this complex project. We sat in their beautiful community space while residents wandered in and out of the room, always smiling, and engaging us in conversation. It is clear that Mayfair Commons is creating community and providing much needed, quality, affordable housing for many seniors. Melissa shared that through the preservation process, they hope to update parts of the building, repair the roof and replace many electric and water fixtures with energy efficient models. Learn more about NRC and Mayfair Commons.