Ald. Sophia King (4th) hosted a community meeting Wednesday night to present development plans for the first phase of a new mix-use housing and retail project in Bronzeville on what’s currently a vacant lot.
The first phase of the project, dubbed 4400 Grove, will feature two 42-unit, four-story buildings and 15,200 square feet of retail space on the buildings’ ground floors. 4400 Grove will also host park space and a public plaza, as well as a fitness center for residents. According to data presented by King on Wednesday, Michaels Development Company and Brinshore Development secured $17.3 million in municipal and state funding for the project, accounting for nearly half of the $38.3 million in total development costs.
The approved development plan presented on Wednesday lists 25 percent of available rental units at 4400 Grove as affordable housing — more than double the affordable units mandated by City Hall for housing projects that receive taxpayer dollars. Bright Star Community Group, a neighborhood nonprofit, has signed on to lead the project’s community outreach efforts, while the Quad Communities Development Corporation, also based in Bronzeville, is connecting the project’s contractors with laborers in the neighborhood.
Developers expect to break ground in October and plan to begin housing occupants in Spring 2020.
“This is a development that’s been a long time coming, even before I was elected [in 2015], ” King told the two-dozen community members huddled in the basement of Northeastern Illinois University’s Carruthers Center on Oakwood Blvd. “This plan did not originally include all of the community, but we’ve made a huge effort to be more inclusive from beginning to end.”
4400 Grove adds to a number of mixed-use housing and retail projects springing up across Bronzeville and other South Side neighborhoods adjacent to the lakefront.
Many of the residents present at Wednesday’s meeting enthusiastically welcomed the news of retail shops opening up on South Cottage Grove Avenue — with a catch.
“Well, we know what kind of retail we don’t want,” one community member told King to the vocal approval of others. “We’ve got enough liquor stores, corner stores, and nail salons around here.”
King agreed, adding that while those kinds of businesses are “successful” and integral parts of the community, she expects 4400 Grove to feature “other kinds of retail, like coffee shops and clothing stores.” King also noted that her office hopes that the retail spaces will fill in with businesses owned by Bronzeville residents.
Some residents at Wednesday’s meeting raised concerns over the potential of increased rents in Bronzeville as a result of 4400 Grove and nearby mixed-use developments like it. Others also worried that the project will drastically reduce the number of available parking spots on nearby side streets.
King acknowledged that these concerns are well-founded, but lauded the project’s potential to bring newfound vibrancy to South Cottage Avenue for the benefit of the community as a whole.
“When looked at holistically, I and many others believe that the projects’ benefits will outweigh the negatives,” King said.