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Original Publication Date: March 10, 2020

This story originally appeared in Curbed Chicago by Jay Koziarz. To read the story in its original format please click here.

New development aims to catalyze community revitalization in North Lawndale

The Ogden Commons brings housing, retail, healthcare, and film studios to West Side neighborhood For the first time in many years, Chicago’s North Lawndale community is getting a major mixed-use development that will bring much-needed jobs, retail space, and eventually hundreds of new residential units to the historically underserved West Side neighborhood. Known as the Ogden Commons, the multi-phase undertaking will transform ten acres of land near the 2600 block of West Ogden Avenue, which were once home to the now-demolished Ogden Courts and Lawndale public housing developments. When complete in 2026, the entire project will provide 120,000 square feet of commercial space and over 350 mixed-income housing units. Work is already underway on the first phase: a three-story building with 50,000 square feet of commercial and retail space occupied by tenants such as Steak n’ Shake, Ja’ Grill and Wintrust Bank. Additional space will be leased to Sinai Health System and Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, which are development partners on the Ogden Commons along with the Habitat Company and the Chicago Housing Authority. “Sinai and Cinespace are the two leading economic drivers in the neighborhood,” Matt Fiascone, president of the Habitat Company, tells Curbed Chicago. “These are groups that may not have a lot of real estate experience, but they’re being incorporated into the buildings and are stakeholders in the project’s ultimate success.” The public-private partnership between Habitat, Sinai, Cinespace, the CHA, and the city of Chicago isn’t the only unusual aspect of the development. The Ogden Commons will be Chicago’s largest mixed-use project to take advantage of federal Opportunity Zones. The program, which offers federal tax benefits for investors and developers who support projects in “distressed” areas, has been met with mixed reviews—especially in cases where states designate zones that may not need much help. Fiascone says this is not the case in North Lawndale. “I don’t think anyone would question [the designation] here,” says the developer. “This is a textbook case for an Opportunity Zone, and, without it, this project never gets the capital it needs to get off the ground.” Under the program, PNC Bank is providing $15 million of the $22 million needed for phase one. All told, the Ogden Commons is expected to cost $200 million. A single development can’t necessarily make or break a neighborhood. Still, the team behind the Ogden Commons believes it will be a big first step in reversing the long term trend of job loss, disinvestment, and generational economic decline in North Lawndale. “It will definitely serve as a catalyst for the North Lawndale neighborhood, far beyond the scope of this project,” Fiascone adds. “Right now there is no new retail, places to eat, or new housing on a meaningful scale. Communities need these things to be vibrant.”

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