PULLMAN — When the Pullman Community Center opens next fall, community members and leaders say it'll be a neighborhood anchor and another sign of the Far South Side's resurgence.
Ground was broken on the $15 million, 138,000-square-foot complex Saturday, something Chatham resident Shelly Wells Smith called "remarkable."
“I think this is something especially remarkable because it’s something that we’ve never seen on this scale in this community, something that is going to benefit our young people in an exceptionally positive way on an ongoing long-term basis," she said. "We’ve never had a project like this.”
Gov. Pat Quinn, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), Bears executive Pat McCaskey, Sheriff Tom Dart and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives president David Doig presided over the groundbreaking. Quinn said the project has so far secured $9 million in funding, with construction expected to begin next month.
The project is funded by city and state grants, and investments from the Bears, Cubs, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and U.S. Bank. It is expected to create as many as 100 jobs.
“Today’s groundbreaking is an investment in the future of Chicago’s youth and the future of the Pullman and Roseland areas,” Quinn said. “It’s places like the Pullman Community Center that give our children a space to develop their talents and stay off the streets year-round. This center will be an important anchor for Chicago’s south side for many years to come.”
Beale said the complex is another sign of Pullman's resurgence, earlier marked by the opening of a Walmart and efforts to designate portions of the neighborhood as a national park.
"Old and new residents have successfully worked to reclaim and revitalize housing, attract manufacturing and retail while protecting the environmental riches that make the area unique,” he said.
Julia Bussell, a solution delivery manager for a software company, was among dozens of people who attended Saturday's ceremony.
She grew up on 111th Street and Prairie Avenue but no longer lives in the neighborhood. Still, she said she has been following every new development in Pullman for the last 20 years.
"Having been a member of the community for so long, finally seeing positive things happen that are going to benefit not only the community but the economy at large, I felt that it was imperative to help celebrate that," Bussell said.
Smith, whose family has owned property in the area since 1969, said the complex can serve to unite neighbors.
"[It's] very important to come out and support [the neighborhood] whether we’re marching for a specific cause that is trying to resolve some negative issues or something positive, I think it’s very important for the community to go out and support.
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