Chicago Prize Finalists Share Vision For Auburn Gresham
Hi I'm Jen. White and this is reset reset podcast. We've been checking in with the finalists for the Chicago Prize. That's a ten million dollar grant competition put on by the Pritzker Trabert Foundation. The prize is designed to invest in organizations working to better the quality of life for residents across the city. Today we have another one of the six finalists. Catalytic development of Auburn Gresham led by Carlos Nelson of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and Eric Allen of the urban growers collective Carlos Eric. Welcome to reset. Thank you first of all. Congratulations on being a finalist for the Chicago Carlos how it feel to be in the running for this day million dollar investment. Let's it's exciting. You know It's very exciting But I will say this is what we do. I mean Our work to rebuild our southside community is going to happen is going to continue to happen. It's just nice that we're getting a notice from folks the Pritzker and philanthropy now. Look it's interesting because everyone we've spoken to each of the finalists groups. There is this optimism and the sense that you know. This is a great driver for what we do but the work has been done and we're going to continue doing it. No matter what happens. Is that the mind space. You're in right now Absolutely I mean. We've all been doing this under you know limited resources and I would just say duress you know a lot of duress and lot of passion so they sort of have folks with a lot of resources an opportunity to kind of bridge these worlds and really empower grassroots efforts to be financially. Viable is the most exciting thing. We'll Carlos I want to hear about the proposal. Give us a broad picture of WHAT CADILLAC DEVELOPMENT. If Auburn Gresham entails great. First of all. You're talking about partners that have been working together for quite a while in Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and Green era development and others in so Our proposal it's a portfolio of investment ready projects catalytic projects that are shovel ready. And they're ready to go and the thing. I think that makes hours unique is that there's already site control it. We have site control. We are repurposing and rebuilding vacant buildings and vacant land. So there's there's no displacement required and these are catalytic projects that we know will begin to transform a community that is in dire need of investment blockbuster those three projects absolutely so I'll start with one led by Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation It is the Auburn Gresham. Healthy lifestyle hub. So if you drive down seventy ninth right near hoisted there's a ominously vacant sixty thousand square foot four story building. That's been vacant for more than Twenty Years. Right next to Leo High School. It's been vacant so long that people no longer notice it. It's got a beautiful terra. Cotta facade we are breathing life into that building. We're going to have it anchored by health and Wellness Center as we are in a health desert where also going to have a restaurant. We're going to have a community center. We're going to have office spaces for a variety of businesses in that building and and that building will be lit up and we know that it will begin Excitement and transformation and in fact there's already a couple of projects that have heard about our work and are ready to come online and it's within A couple of blocks or feet actually of the new metro station. That will be groundbreaking Next year as well Erica. Tell us about the first renewable energy and urban farming campus. One of the other prongs of this project the nine Acre Parcel used to be a city impound lot so whenever I talk to anybody about where the the bio digesters going to be in the urban farm campus. I'm like you know on eighty third wallace around the band and everyone kind of hold the impound lot so that's this this space exciting as well because it is sort of flanked by the metro lines so people will be able to see this transform. Space that has just been derelict for so long and is actually currently a Brownfield to be transformed remediated. Actual space will be suddenly environmentally sustainable. And then then we're going to continue that what the actual functionality of the space and what will happen there. So bio digestion. Anaerobic digestion is the process of taking food or organic. You know kind of the things that when you throw your trash get Kinda funky taking those things and in processing. I'm kind of like a you know like our bodies do like grinding up all of the food that we eat gases are released in that process. We're all releasing methane. Everyone who's listening. You're releasing methane one way or the other at some point in the day. This apparatus captures that methane from that process and then Um cleans the methane and pushes it into the actual people's gas pipeline so the same gas. It's coming to your kitchen. Stove is gas that were capturing from this process and then after twenty day process of this we end up with compost so it really creates this closed. Loop of creating the material that urban growers collective and our many partners need to build urban farm. So it's this whole kind of closed loop super local energy to actually produce energy to make our community not only self sufficient as far as any kind of climate resiliency or any kind of challenges around both food and energy. So I mean if you think about it you know especially with destabilizing factors that can happen. You know what would we do? And then a lot of our neighborhoods are the most vulnerable around food security around. You know if there is an emergency. How do we take care of ourselves so this project kind of creates baseline and then this is exciting economic opportunity so all the businesses that can emerge that are green and sustainable and dare I say it non-exploitative that were able to take a resource that is currently being landfilled or small amount of it's being diverted and really build a system of a model for replication so all of the projects that are growing food or doing gardening or want to do new construction? They all need clean soil. Because our soil's urban spaces are contaminated so the the process of the actual business is creating the building blocks for healthier lives. Lives Lives Like just a whole kind of rethinking of how we kind of take care of ourselves in our communities and young people of course know this already. They get it. They get really excited because they can see themselves. In this process it can see themselves becoming environmental engineers. They can see themselves becoming farmers or food entrepreneurs or like a whole host of different career. Pathways that without this being in our community. It's something over there that other folks have. It's not an our community that we're part of what Carlos the third part of. This project is the repurposing of calcium at high school which has been abandoned. I'm for some time. Tell us about that part. Yeah so Our focus with the resources from the prize really is to do a heavily engaged community planning process around what the repurposing of calcium at high school. This three hundred thousand square foot beautiful edifice that has been. That's now abandoned what that might be you know. We're we're expecting to look at you. Know Ford -able housing Job Creation training centers and the like and so. It really is to make certain that it's a ground up planning process and not a top down so came in highschool is a. It's been there for one hundred years Tonight Conic building and so. That's what the inclusion of that third project in our Chicago. Prize is really about planning for that repurposing. But as I mentioned now there's additional projects that are looking to come on board and so we've created a master plan and so our Chicago Prize. The successful Chicago Prize of Auburn. Gresham will catalyze a a number of really interesting innovative development project economic development projects in Auburn. Gresham can you tell us a little bit more about the demographics of Auburn Gresham? So if we were sitting here of fifty years ago I would say that Auburn Gresham was maybe sixty out of my now sixty years ago. Auburn Gresham and You know at a population sixty one thousand ninety eight percent white Irish Catholic or or or German or or others starting during the sixties and heavily in the to the seventies when ethnic succession occurred or sociologists. Call it white flight The community now is made up of about ninety five percent African American. At one time it was sixty thousand or so residents but as we've began to see a more lately. There's been an out migration. It's our population is about forty seven thousand residents. Now Erica. Talk about the importance of centering community voice in the plan. You already have laid out. But also as Carlos mentioned reimagining how high school can be an anchor in the community as soon as folks begin to see themselves in the environment and in the space in a different way. Suddenly things that were kind of like a kind of invisible or suddenly visible. And there's sort of a pathway to participate in planning and and sort of unleashing all of the kind of I don't WanNa Save. I'm going to say it kind of repressed dreams like you're trying to survive. You're trying to hustle you trying to like you know. Just get by and suddenly. There's just so expansive thing that happens and you look at a space and it's like suddenly you can see you know of starting a manufacturing company or you know the whatever the business or the idea that to have a space where you can you can project yourself in through a planning process and be part of that and to because it's not some externalised process it's coming from the community led by J. D. C. Who We've been partnering with like we couldn't be where we are with our project without having a community based partner and that shares our our shares our values and goals around making sure that community is centered in all aspects of the planning all aspects of being the first to be the beneficiaries of you know these kinds of resources when they come in and not just the same like two or three entities but really opening it up so folks can find pathway see the pathway and then be part of that transformation. I'm really excited about. I mean it's overwhelming to liked this huge space but I I love that that because we are we've we were part of this sort of you know consortium if you will that it's not just about the Green Arrow project and sort of the like footprint that were part of it becomes the entire community. And then it's like. Oh what could what are the businesses that can relate to the work that were directly? Doing you know is there. You know an APOTEX. You know. entrepreneur who wants to set set up shop in that space. There's someone from the community who has a vision around that. There is somebody who wants to do solar panel manufacturing and so there's a build up for them. There's somebody who wants to you now grow. I'm just GONNA be in my wheelhouse grow mushroom you know like there's so many things that can happen because of this kind of community engaged process and being led by a Community Economic Development Corporation. That really is has done the work. Historically that makes it like so exciting for like organizations like ours to be able to develop a project like this. It feels like so much of the work. I've been hearing not just from your organizations but also from some of the other finalists is really centered around this idea of creating a sustainable community. Carlos talk a little bit about why? That's so important to this planning a very good question. So you know One of the challenges that we've continued to face. If you come to seventy ninth in Allsteel you'll notice that. Cvs Care Mark has just left the store. Vacated Bank of America's now vacant to save a lot has become shuttered a week and a half ago and And there's other a stories like that and they all have one thing in common. Those are businesses projects that are not owned and operated led by folks from the community people of Color. That patronize those businesses. It's one of the things that we're we're excited about. We're really focusing on kind of this for us by US mentality. And even beyond that. We are looking at now for profits within our communities whether their new Pisgat community service organization or target area development or saints by or some of our other strong Auburn Gresham partners or others to invest and to be able to invest in have vehicle of investment into our own projects within our communities and an Erica has kind of found a product that I think will allow us to do that. At concessionary capital project that will allow community partners in and members to be investors in their own community. We only have a couple of minutes left here so I want to talk about job training. Because part of what you're you're describing Erica. What require people to get drink? How how do I become a farmer you know? How do I figure out how to set up an aqua politics lab? Is that part of the plan as well absolutely? And that's that's the work that our urban growers collective has been doing Historically and we'll and we'll continue doing that but also just They able to connect with a lot of the entities like higher three sixty and others. Who can help with preparing the folks that we've been training to enter into the construction trades to enter into some of the Union Opportunities that are inherent with this kind of development because it is you know it's not just You know US building hoop houses which we do now. We train The men that are in our training program How to do that work with the idea that we're becoming job ready to go into a trade or some other kind of living wage profession but to actually be in like we're doing multimillion dollar construction. There is opportunities to really shift some paradigms around. Who's doing that work and really work with our construction and GM partners to do that. And so so we're looking at it not just from the urban farming and the landscaping and sort of the environmental kind of silo if you will but that kind of arena which is sort of like yes absolutely and there's so much opportunity and importance in having that baseline but also all the other things like how those are make a community more livable but also create you know kind of connections around building the community literally building the housing doing the green renewable energy transformation in a bungalow. And how that's connected to a site that's doing that and then I can walk over to the healthy lifestyle hub and have a healthy salad. That's grown by the Greens at the farmer by another farmer. Who's in Englewood or a North Mondale? Who's part of this large? You know kind of connected community. That's Eric Allen Co founder and CEO of operations for the urban growers collective also with US Carlos Nelson Executive Director of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation. Their proposal catalytic development of Auburn Gresham is up for the ten million dollar Chicago Prize Grant. Thanks so much for being with us and good luck to you. And that's Today's Reset. Join US again for more conversations with people working to make a difference across Chicago. I'm Jen White. Thanks for listening and let's talk again soon.