GRAND BOULEVARD — After seven years, shovels finally hit the dirt on a new public housing building and Walmart on the edge of Kenwood and Grand Boulevard.
“This day is the culmination of a seven-year journey,” said Shirley Newsome, former 4th Ward alderman and chairman of the board of the Quad Communities Development Corp.
In 2006, Newsome and Bernita Johnson-Gabriel, the executive director of the community development nonprofit, traveled to Las Vegas to court developers to the south lakefront neighborhoods of Kenwood, Oakland, Douglas and Grand Boulevard.
“It is an anchor project,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “It is just pivotal for economic growth and development, and it is in a great neighborhood.”
Johnson Gabriel said she couldn’t believe the developers were finally starting construction on the 96 new apartments until she saw the first backhoe on the site about a month ago.
“In a few short days, Shirley and Bernita, we will sit smack dab on the seven-year mark of when we met in Las Vegas,” said Adam Troy, part of the development team whose project has outlived some of its members.
In June of 2010, Lee Skilken died. His firm Skilken Development is the majority partner in the project and has the most at stake.
“You all know what it took for all of us to get here — it took a lot of compassion and patience for us to get here today,” said Ken Gold, CEO of Skilken and Lee Skilken’s son-in-law.
In a year, the corner at 47th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue that housed a liquor store and alcohol warehouse will be home to a 41,000-square-foot Walmart and other small community retail spaces at an expected cost of $45.6 million.
Walmart signed on to the project six years into the planning. Aldi was expected to anchor the retail portion of the development until unexpectedly pulling out early last year.
The Walmart Neighborhood Market will offer a selection of produce, food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics tailored to the community, according to Karisa Sprague, the vice president and regional general manager for Northern Illinois for the retail giant.