A new restaurant, studio space and a neighborhood store receive city grants
Thirty-one small businesses on the South and West sides were recently awarded grants from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund.
Most of us give up on our teenage dreams. Not Jackie Jackson.
Growing up on the South Side, Jackson’s first job was flipping burgers, serving customers and singing jingles at a Burger King. She dreamt of one day owning her own fast-food joint.
After college, she worked as an educator in the Chicago Public Schools system and then as a real estate agent. She later opened several Kilwins franchises in Chicago. When the pandemic wreaked havoc on her franchises, she wasn’t sure what to do next.
Now, a city grant will make her long-time dream a reality. Jackson will bring a Fatburger — the first in the state — to Chatham this year.
“It’s in my blood,” the Bronzeville resident said.
Jackson’s is among 31 small businesses on the South and West sides that were recently awarded grants from the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. The fund aims to revitalize South and West side business corridors by funding construction and rehabilitation projects.
Jackson’s $1.02 million grant will help pay for the conversion of a vacant Seaway Bank building into a fast-casual restaurant.
“[I’m going to] take this building that has been in the community for 10 years and transform it into something for the community,” Jackson said. “I’m really, really excited about the brand and I think it’s something the community will appreciate.”
This process didn’t come without hiccups. When Jackson applied for the same grant last year, she was awarded $250,000 — a sizable amount, but not enough for the large-scale renovations.
Jackson turned down the grant, to the dismay of some around her.
“Some people will say, ‘You should just take the $250,000. You know, you’re gambling; you’re rolling the dice.’ I said I couldn’t have made it happen with the $250,000. It would have been impossible. So why start something you can’t finish?”
The grant finalists were selected from 180 applications by a committee that evaluated proposals on project readiness, viability, location and neighborhood needs.
The Floating Museum — a museum that works with artists and public spaces to create traveling exhibitions — will also receive funding through the program.
The museum will use the $250,000 it was awarded to rehabilitate its brick-and-mortar studio space in Grand Crossing, which it bought in “total disrepair.”
“We really appreciate the acknowledgment and support in receiving this from the city,” said Faheem Majeed, co-director of the Floating Museum.
The building will eventually function as a flex space for artists, exhibitions and community programming.
“We’ve done a lot of work in this area, [on the] West Side and South Side,” Majeed said. “We want to continue to do that, and the building is going to help us better support artists. … We want to do our part and make sure that the work we’re doing in the city also benefits the corridor that we’re in.”
A dollar store in Roseland will use its grant to build a new roof.
“I was in shock,” Wartari Hall, owner of Unique Dollarz said after he received the news. “I thought [my wife] was pranking me.”
Hall’s store was awarded $24,090, the smallest award on the list, but the money will have a significant impact on the store, which he now staffs with his children.
“I got the whole block supporting me,” Hall said. “When I got the store up and running, I can help the community.”