Rosenwald Courts

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Winner
Award Category: 
Residential Major Community Impact
Property Name: 
Rosenwald Courts
Developer: 
Iceberg Development Group / Evercore / Lightengale / Roos Enterprises/ RCAP LP
Owner: 
Rosenwald Courts Apartments LP
Location: 
Chicago, Ill

Brief Description of Development

Rosenwald Courts is a nationally designated historic building located on a full city block in Chicago that has been substantially rehabilitated after 15 years of vacancy. Rosenwald Courts was de-densified from 454 units in five- and three-story walk-up buildings to 239 one- and two-bedroom units of senior and family mainly elevator-accessed housing with a 2-acre professionally landscaped interior courtyard as well as 50,000 square feet of retail and office space. The development required creativity and perseverance to successfully reconfigure the property, handle the many unexpected structural issues during construction, and incorporate the community into the construction and retail opportunities.

But for the receipt of HTCs, would this development have been possible?

The historic tax credits were critical to the financial feasibility of the project. The sale of the historic credits generated more than 15 percent of all required capital to complete the construction. Other sources could not have been located to replace such a critical funding source.

Narrative

Had a meaningful impact on its community?

The long-awaited re-opening of the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments (now Rosenwald Courts) is a preservation success story decades in the making. Developed in 1929 by noted philanthropist and Sears & Roebuck founder Julius Rosenwald the massive 454 unit complex provided much-needed quality housing for African-American families in Chicago during a time of segregation and limited housing options. Residents of the famed complex included such luminaries as playwright Lorraine Hansberry, publishing giant John H. Johnson, musician Quincy Jones, boxing great Joe Louis, and Olympians Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. The project declined in the 1960s and 1970s and was shuttered in 1999 after a gas leak caused the emergency relocation of residents.

Distinguished itself in a unique manner?

Community residents (led by Bronzeville activist Bobbie Johnson, 2012(d)) joined with a variety of preservation groups to protest demolition and advocate for redevelopment of the complex. In 2002, the Rosenwald was included in Landmarks Illinois’ “Most Endangered Historic Places in Illinois” list. The National Trust for Historic Places included the building on its list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” in 2003. In 2007, Preservation Chicago included the Rosenwald on its list, the "Chicago 7" Most Endangered Buildings. The alderman held numerous planning sessions to help find a path for saving this important landmark.

Served as major catalyst for further community development?

The resources needed to complete the 500,000-square-foot project were immense. Fortunately, the city of Chicago and Chicago Housing Authority provided significant resources to the project due to both the project's historic significance to the Bronzeville neighborhood, but also to further the revitalization of 47th street. Ownership worked closely with 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell and the City of Chicago to compile a complex financing package that leveraged all known sources – the 4 percent LIHTC (with tax exempt bonds), historic tax credits, TIF Funds and Neighborhood Stabilization Funds, Public Housing Capital, Seller Financing, FHLB, and traditional loans.


Responded to community need(s)?

The building now has 239 well-appointed residential units that are fully occupied with a waitlist, ground floor commercial space that is fully leased/committed and significant affordable office space that will allow neighborhood businesses to grow. These combined factors, as well as that the building sits on a targeted retail/redevelopment corridor between two train lines, provides a significant boost to the look, feel, and reality of daily life in the neighborhood.

Employed the effective use of community resources?

In addition to providing much-needed affordable housing opportunities and new retail and office spaces for the surrounding community, the rehabilitation of the Rosenwald created hundreds of construction jobs and dozens of permanent jobs, including jobs associated with the building’s retail and commercial spaces, for local residents. Saved from the wrecking ball, the building stands once again as a community anchor in Bronzeville.

Achieved its objectives?

Rosenwald Courts Apartments LP knew the project would be costly from the beginning but were surprised when the actual conditions of the building were more challenging than expected. Both sets of buildings were structurally far worse off than initial reports anticipated so the challenges throughout construction were significant. Although challenging, the project has been a big success and has made a significant change in the community.

 

Photos

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Additional Information

Final Fliers

Narrative