Partnership with real estate developer brings Woodlawn community center step closer to fruition

Related Midwest will donate help with building design and construction plus an undisclosed amount of cash toward Pastor Corey Brooks’ planned community center in Woodlawn. Brooks pegged the total value of the assistance at $2 million.

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Corey Brooks, known as “the rooftop pastor,” camped on top of shipping containers near his New Beginnings Church for months in 2021-2022 to raise money for a new community center in Woodlawn.

Pastor Corey Brooks has been camped atop eight storage containers for the past three months, hoping to raise awareness of the gun violence in the Woodlawn community and fundraising for a new resource center.

Anthony Vazquez / Sun-Times

After more than 100 days camped out in the cold, Pastor Corey Brooks and Project H.O.O.D. have announced a partnership with real estate developer Related Midwest to build a community resource center in Woodlawn.

The company has partnered with Project H.O.O.D. before on the group’s summer programs and construction classes.

So when Curt R. Bailey, Related’s president, along with Don Biernacki, executive vice president, joined Brooks in his campout to end gun violence on Dec. 8, Brooks said he was “able to present our case to them and explain what we’re trying to do.”

Biernacki called Brooks’ passion for the Woodlawn community “inspiring.”

“Related Midwest and our partners are thrilled to enter into this collaboration and build the best possible community center for the people of Woodlawn,” Biernacki said in a statement, adding the company was calling on all members of the city’s business community to “step up and contribute to this worthy cause.”

The value of the assistance and Related’s donation adds up to $2 million, Brooks said. In addition to an undisclosed amount of cash, Related will help with building design and construction.

Brooks, who has lived on top of eight storage containers stacked at 6615 S. King Dr. for the past three months, extended his stay outside indefinitely last week. He said he will not come down until reaching his $35 million goal. Counting Related Midwest’s partnership, the tally stands at $10 million.

Eight storage containers on South King Drive will be the home for Pastor Corey Brooks for 100 days.

Eight storage containers on South King Drive have been home for Pastor Corey Brooks.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Project H.O.O.D. also applied for a Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s Chicago Prize grant, which could be up to $5 million.

The grant supports community-led initiatives using real estate development to create jobs, businesses and increase wealth for Black and Brown Chicagoans. (The foundation has provided financial support to Chicago Public Media, parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times.)

Brooks said his team has submitted project plans to the city and made their case for city funding to Deputy Mayor Samir Mayekar.

“My hope and prayer is that the city will see that this is such a worthwhile project and so important as it relates to fighting violence and changing this community that they’ll contribute and help,” Brooks said.

Brooks said state Sen. Mattie Hunter also put $2 million for the project in the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity budget, although those funds haven’t been released yet.

Once the group raises $20 million, Brooks said, they can break ground. After that, he hopes to attract more investors for the remaining $15 million.

Still, he plans to remain on the roof, sending emails, holding video calls and doing all he can to raise the rest.

“I don’t know of any other project like this going on in the city,” Brooks said. “This is definitely a project that deserves recognition.”

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via 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.

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