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Rosenwald Groundbreaking Starts $109M Revival of Nat 'King' Cole's Old Home

By Sam Cholke | February 18, 2015 2:00pm

HYDE PARK — After more than five years of planning, work has started to revive the massive Rosenwald Apartments, once the home of Nat “King” Cole, Quincy Jones and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) and other city officials were out in Bronzeville Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the beginning of the rebirth of the crumbling 86-year-old building that dominates an entire city block at 4600 S. Michigan Ave.

“The redevelopment of the Rosenwald Apartments builds on our vision for Bronzeville by bringing new, affordable housing to the neighborhood and ensuring that residents have an affordable, safe and secure place to call home,” Emanuel said.

Indiana-based Landwhite Developers started in 2012 planning the resurrection of building that was once the preferred residence of doctors, lawyers and other middle-class black families in Bronzeville.

The $109 million plan calls for maintaining nearly all of the lumbering structure that has been worn down by the elements since the last tenants left in 1999.

The revived building will feature 239 apartments ringing a two-acre interior courtyard. Most of the apartments will be one- or two-bedroom units for seniors, and the Chicago Housing Authority has given the developers a $17.4 million loan for 60 units for its tenants, 60 rent-assisted units and 18 affordable units.

“The Rosenwald development will also re-energize the 47th Street commercial corridor in Bronzeville by strengthening the local economy and attracting various businesses to the South Side community,” said CHA CEO Michael Merchant.

The city is also kicking in $25 million in TIF money and a $58.6 million tax-exempt bond for the project, which along with state support pushes the total tax subsidies for the project to $84 million.

Despite the complex cocktail of public and private interests, the largest project in Bronzeville in nearly a decade still tracks very closely to a 2010 plan developed by the Urban Land Institute and community members at the behest of Ald. Dowell.

The plan called for fixing up the existing building with mixed-income housing and retail along 47th Street at a cost of $111 million, once adjusted for inflation.

Some demolition work is expected to start over the winter, with construction starting full steam in the spring.

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