On December 11, 2018, Benefit Chicago, a social investment fund sponsored by The Chicago Community Trust, Calvert Impact Capital, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, announced that it would provide $5 million in financing to CCLF’s Repurpose Initiative. The Repurpose Initiative focuses on revitalizing shuttered Chicago Public School buildings on the city’s South and West sides.
CCLF will launch the initiative by first using the Benefit Chicago funding to finance the Washington Park Development Group’s (WPDG) revitalization of the former Overton School in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. The school, located at 221 E. 49th Street, opened in 1963 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The WPDG plans to transform the school into a business incubator with 40 individual spaces and a multipurpose common area.
“What we’re talking about are buildings with really good bones in strategic locations that were one-time community assets,” explains Bob Tucker, CCLF’s Chief Operating Officer. “We want to make those buildings assets again.”
An additional planned project in CCLF’s Repurpose Initiative is the redevelopment of the long-vacant Chicago Public Schools administration building in the city’s Englewood community into a dormitory for the City Colleges of Chicago. Located at 6529 S. Stewart, the Repurpose Initiative funding will be used to revitalize the building into an 88-bed dormitory for students at nearby Kennedy-King College.
“For local residents, a closed school signals distress and abandonment,” says Calvin L. Holmes, CCLF President. “A revived and repurposed school is a beacon of hope for a neighborhood. It provides needed services and amenities, boosts traffic for nearby businesses, and encourages additional investment.”