Woodlawn Church Seeks to Develop Hub for Black Life and Culture

The Apostolic Church of God has been in Woodlawn for almost 70 years. Now he is looking to use part of his property to create a center of black life, culture and entertainment for the community.

Developed by the Network of Woodlawn and run by the church’s pastor, Reverend Byron Brazier, and his son, developer J. Byron Brazier, Woodlawn Central, as it is called, would be an “Indigenous place” for culture. black.

“Even in the face of gentrification, the best way to develop the black community is from the inside out,” J. Byron Brazier said. “We want to share our unique experiences and perspectives with the world, just like any other culture has the opportunity to do.”

Spanning eight acres of church-owned property near 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue, the plan includes a technology center, hotel, commercial spaces, theater, and private residential buildings.

Also included is a vertical farm on Kenwood Avenue and 63rd Street, built on top of a parking structure.

Brazier said the development is intended to benefit Woodlawn – and that it will benefit tourists drawn to the area by the Obama Presidential Center, being built just steps from Jackson Park.

Already a transportation hub and with the construction of the Obama Presidential Center nearby, Brazier said it was “no brainer” to several investors who have already offered full funding for the $ 600 million project.
Sherwood Design Engineers

Brazier said occupants of the commercial spaces will be announced soon and will include a hotel chain. The residences will include units designated as senior housing.

If the zoning is changed, as Brazier hopes, the development could include up to 870 units, ranging from studios to three bedrooms. The current zoning allows buildings up to 15 stories; Brazier wants the site to be dezoned to allow a building of 25 floors maximum. This building would have a rooftop pool with a view of the lake, he said.

While rents have not been determined, the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance states that 30% of units should be affordable for families earning 30% to 50% of the region’s median income, which is $ 25,450.

Although the definition of “affordable” rent varies, the Woodlawn Affordable Housing Initiative states that a development of 100 units should have 15 available at $ 543 per month and another 15 units at $ 942 per month.

Brazier said the development is also intended to attract higher income tenants.

“It has to be a multi-income community,” Brazier said. “We need to determine what are the best opportunities for this to ensure the sustainability of the church and the sustainability of the community. “

By “sustainable”, Brazier means that development must bring in money, which can be reinvested in the community, while being respectful of the environment and providing indoor and outdoor spaces that “speak to the community and to the community. community culture ”.

The environmental component will include solar power and a rainwater storage system, allowing it to be used later for watering gardens and landscaping.

The schedule is aggressive, he said. Details, including architects, design team and business partners, will be announced this year, with the grand opening in 2023. All aspects of the project would be completed by 2028.

Woodlawn's central master plan calls for a technology center, hotel, commercial spaces, agents, greenhouse, theater, and several private residential buildings.

Woodlawn’s central master plan calls for a technology center, hotel, commercial spaces, agents, greenhouse, theater, and several private residential buildings.
Sherwood Design Engineers

Brazier hopes to use modular technology to drive this timeline. Individual dwellings would be fully completed off-site and then stacked on top of each other after arriving on-site.

This approach, Brazier said, would be up to 45% faster and around 35% more cost effective. Among the companies using this technology is FullStack Modular in Brooklyn, New York.

The cost of development is high, ranging from $ 300 million to $ 600 million. Many potential investors have offered to fully fund the project, Brazier said, and he hopes to announce a partnership by the end of the year.

It is all worth it, he said, to promote black entrepreneurship and success.

“The lack of accessibility to monetization and securing capital support for black entrepreneurs, creators and innovators is probably the thing I miss the most,” Brazier said.

The 63rd Street Dorchester Avenue Apostolic Church of God has been in Woodlawn for almost 70 years.

The 63rd Street Dorchester Avenue Apostolic Church of God has been in Woodlawn for almost 70 years.
Brian Rich / Sun-Times

Ownership of black businesses is inferior to ownership of Asian, Latin and White businesses across the country, he said, and “based on our contributions to this country, we should own at least. minus 25% “.

To address these disparities, the Woodlawn Plan will include a program on developing black business infrastructure and cultural skills. This program will take “a significant portion of the overall investment” and reinvest in emerging and established black businesses and then bring them onto campus, Brazier said.

“You can’t have a black community without black businesses,” he said. “If this can be a process to catalyze the growth of black property in the country… the structure that we have created is a viable option to see how we create not only in Chicago, but in Detroit and Ohio and in California and in New York.”

Brazier said he hopes the development will lead to

Brazier said he hopes the development will lead to “self-determination” in the black community. “If we see ourselves doing it, others will be inspired,” he said.
Sherwood Design Engineers


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