Three new libraries headed to the South and West sides

The libraries in Back of the Yards, Humboldt Park and Woodlawn “will provide crucial resources and support to our residents,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

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A digital rendering shows the planned exterior for a new library branch in the Back of the Yards neighborhood at 4630 S. Ashland Ave. The new location is a part of a mixed-use building with commercial and residential spaces.

A digital rendering shows the planned exterior for a new library branch in the Back of the Yards neighborhood at 4630 S. Ashland Ave. The new location is a part of a mixed-use building with commercial and residential spaces.

Chicago Public Library

Three new libraries are coming to Humboldt Park, Back of the Yards and Woodlawn.

The libraries in Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park will include residential and commercial spaces as a part of the city’s Invest South/West initiative. The Chicago Public Library will use $18 million in capital bonds to fund a new library branch in Woodlawn, city officials said Friday.

“These new facilities will provide crucial resources and support to our residents, helping to strengthen our communities and promote education and lifelong learning,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in announcing the plans.

The new library in Back of the Yards is replacing the library that’s been at the Back of the Yards College Prep high school campus since the school opened in 2013.

The development will also include affordable housing units, a health care center, a performing arts center, spaces for the nonprofits Chicago Commons and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, and headquarters for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council.

“We’re over the moon happy with this because this is going to be the perfect addition to our mixed-use development,” said Craig Chico, CEO of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. “This is long overdue for the community.”

The branch will be more centrally located in the neighborhood at 4630 S. Ashland Ave., which will be key to making it easier for residents to access the library, Chico said. Also, the high school has long wanted to have its own library for students.

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A digital rendering shows the interior for a new library branch in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The new library is replacing the neighborhood’s existing library on the Back of the Yards College Prep campus.

Chicago Public Library

“This library is going to serve the Back of the Yards, and that means really serving a multi-racial community,” Chico said. “The library is going to be gorgeous, it’s going to compete with any library in the city.”

The 16,000-square-foot library space will have a separate entrance and below ground parking. The goal is to break ground on the project by early 2024 and have the library open to the public by late spring 2025, Chico said.

Funding for the Back of the Yards library primarily comes from a $15 million state grant obtained by state Rep. Theresa Mah in 2020. That funding wouldn’t have happened without neighborhood moms pushing for a standalone library, Chico said.

In a statement, Mah said, “This new CPL branch is the result of years of advocacy and discussion and coordination across multiple levels of local government.”

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A digital rendering shows the planned exterior of a new library branch in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The new location is a part of a mixed-use building with commercial and residential spaces.

Chicago Public Library

The Humboldt Park site is a part of the Team Pioneros project, a $55.3 million project to redevelop the vacant Pioneer Bank building at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Road.

In addition to the 16,000-square-foot public library space, the facility will include 75 affordable housing units, a Latino cultural center, office space for the lead architect JGMA and offices for Humboldt Park Family Health.

“Mayor Lightfoot’s invest South/West initiative responds to the needs of our community that we have been waiting for — for a long, long time,” Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said in the release.

José López, the executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, said the library is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

“The opening of a new library at the Pioneros development will be an amazing addition to our collective growth as a community; particularly as we develop the Puerto Rican collection, which will add new dimensions to the historical presence and persistence of Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park and in the city of Chicago,” López said in the statement.

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A digital rendering shows the interior of a new library branch in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The new library is a part of a project to redevelop the vacant Pioneer Bank building at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Road.

Chicago Public Library

The new Woodlawn library will replace the neighborhood’s existing public library, the Bessie Coleman branch at 731 E. 63rd St, said Patrick Molloy, the director of government and public affairs for the Chicago Public Library. The location, timeline and budget for the new branch have not been determined.

The new facilities in Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park will provide early childhood learning spaces and programs, homework help through the Teacher in the Library program, computer classes, book clubs and literacy coaching for adults and seniors.

These mixed-use spaces aren’t new for the city. The Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Housing Authority have partnered in the past to combine housing and libraries.

In 2018, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel broke ground on three neighborhood libraries with affordable housing units — the Roosevelt Library and Taylor Apartments in Little Italy, Independence Apartments and Independence Library in Irving Park and the Northtown Apartments and Northtown Branch Library in West Ridge.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify which agencies are involved in these new mixed-use spaces.

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