Good retail and quality affordable residential housing help deter neighborhood deterioration, but adding in these components often doesn't come easily.
Cottage Grove Avenue's burgeoning transformation in historic Bronzeville on Chicago's South Side has been a 10-year effort. The Shops and Lofts at 47, a mixed-use project on three acres there, is credited with being the catalyst for the change and now is sparking more development.
Decades ago, the area became the heart of African-American cultural life in the city. But after streetcars disappeared, the demographics changed, shopping declined, and working-class families moved away. Public initiatives and residential redevelopment efforts to reverse the decline got a big boost in 2003 when Quad Communities Development Corp. decided to improve the area's quality of life and economy.
Enter the Skilken Cos. and TROY Enterprises, two development firms, both based in Columbus, Ohio, that formed a partnership to eliminate the void on the block at East 47th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue. Fortunately, the area had a big advantage: adjacent mass transportation.
The developers hired Chicago's Pappageorge Haymes Partners to design a lively complex. Project architect Brian Kidd renovated an existing five-story building measuring 55,000 square feet to include 72 apartments plus a 41,000-square-foot Walmart Neighborhood Mart. Kidd also added three new, lower-rise residential buildings with a total of 24 units.
The housing serves a mixed-income group seeking public housing, affordable, and market-rate prices. Each apartment in the mixed-use building has a balcony, with some views oriented toward the city's skyline. Another innovative idea was to separate parking for residents and shoppers.
The developers and architect made sustainability a key component throughout with green roofs and reflective roof surfaces, eco-friendly bamboo flooring, energy-efficient appliances, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficient heat-pump mechanical systems, good insulation, and a stormwater retention system.
The most important result is the stabilization and rebirth of an area with a history too rich to discard. "It's the important first step in redeveloping a neighborhood, with substantial investment from others to follow and emulate," says Skilken president Frank R. Petruziell.