A Place Called Woodlawn

Yolonda Wofford (Teeny Tiny Daycare Owner) , Mayor Emanuel, Tobias Spears (Trianon Lofts Resident) and William Eager (POAH) at Trainon Lofts Ribbon Cutting

Trianon Lofts, named after Woodlawn’s famed ballroom from the 1920s, had its ribbon cutting ceremony on November 7, 2017. In its heyday, thousands of people came to Woodlawn to experience legendary artists like Ray Charles and Muddy Waters on 62nd Street and Cottage Grove Avenue at the once dubbed “world’s most beautiful ballroom.” In 1960, the population of Woodlawn was 81,279 but withered to 25,983 by 2010. Preservation for Affordable Housing (POAH) is spearheading a resurgence to make life better for existing residents; provide better retail spaces for existing community businesses; and provide jobs for local residents.

Trianon Lofts, located at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, is part of larger crusade undertaken by POAH and several community organizers with its $30 million Choice Neighborhood grant received from the federal government. The Choice Neighborhoods program supports locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. POAH’s President and CEO, Aaron Gornstein, shared during the ribbon cutting ceremonies that the $30 million has leveraged $400 million in community development projects in Woodlawn. Other new Woodlawn developments include the newly renovated transit oriented development now known as the Woodlawn Station and POAH’s Woodlawn Park Apartments. Metro Squash and the upcoming President Barack Obama Library that will be built nearby are all part of the redevelopment of Woodlawn.

Mayor Emanuel Visits a Model Apartment at Trianon Lofts with POAH Leaders Aaron Gornstein (President and CEO) and Bill Eager (Vice President, Chicago Area).

As Chicago Mayor Emanuel was ready to cut the ribbon, he reflected on what all the changes coming to Woodlawn really mean for families in the community. He told the crowd of residents and community leaders that significant gains have been made in the academic achievement of students in Woodlawn. The reading scores have increased as well as the graduation rate. The gains in education are not an accident but part of the larger strategy with the new el station and housing all working together to increase Woodlawn’s population. “Don’t measure Woodlawn by how many shootings, but by how many grads are on the way to college,” declared the Mayor. The work of POAH is helping to shape the new image of the community. Mayor Emanuel stated, “This building (Trainon Lofts) is not just a space but a place called Woodlawn.”

Chicago Community Loan Fund provided $5 million in New Market Tax Credits for Trianon Lofts. The four story building offers 24 units of housing and 7,000 square feet of commercial space. Half of the apartments will be market rate and half for families making 50%-80% of the area median income. This is significant because Trainon Lofts is the first mixed-income housing in Woodlawn in over 40 years. Teeny Tiny University daycare will be a tenant in the commercial space providing a safe place where parents can drop off their children and go to work.

Additional funding sources for this project included: City of Chicago, HUD, BMO Harris Bank, JPMorgan Chase and Local Initiatives Support Corporation.