Looking north at the intersection of 47th Street and Ashland Avenue in Back of the Yards on April 4, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

BACK OF THE YARDS — The team behind the winning Invest South/West proposal to overhaul Back of the Yards’ retail corridor is joining forces with a developer that lost out on the city bid, broadening the scope of the project to bring in local entrepreneurs.

The city chose United Yards, a proposal from Celadon Partners and Blackwood Group, as the winning bid in 2021 to transform the lot at 1515 W. 47th St. with affordable housing units and an opportunity hub as part of Invest South/West. The city program is focused on providing funding to spur development in under-resourced neighborhoods.

The plans include creating independent senior living units at the Rainbow building, 4701 S. Ashland Ave., and building a pair of three-flats at 1641 W. 47th St.

Scott Henry, principal at Celadon Partners, said city officials picked his company’s project — then asked if he could collaborate with Back of the Yards Works principal Jesse Iñiguez. Iñiguez’s team had pitched spaces for local businesses and an employee training center at the site.

“We went from competitors to partners and, really, friends,” Henry said. “Frankly, when we were competing against Jesse, and we’re sitting there on these Zooms watching his presentation, we were blown away with it. … This Invest South/West Initiative has created a partnership that may never otherwise would have happened.”

Iñiguez, who co-founded Back of the Yards Coffeehouse, said it was important to him as a resident and business owner in the neighborhood to include local representation in shaping the development.

Iñiguez said 100 percent of the businesses involved in the project are locally owned: Back of the Yards Coffee Co., Sugarberry Bakery, La Selva T-shirt shop and Somos Monos brewing company. He also said the team was dedicated to hiring locally, which ties into the youth training center, The Marimba Institute.

“For a long time, we’ve always been on the other side kind of battling outside developers coming in and basically telling us, ‘This is what you need,’ as opposed to having a seat with us at the table and telling us, ‘How can we help?'” Iñiguez said. “And I think that’s what’s unique about this project, is that we have the ability to really collaborate.”

Some of the businesses will operate out of the ground-floor commercial spaces of the former Goldblatt’s building at 4701 S. Marshfield Ave.. The brewery will be next to the three-flats at 1641 W. 47th St., Henry said.

Henry said the team closed on a predevelopment loan earlier this week. With the financing in place, developers hope to start work this summer on the land where the brewery and three-flats will go.

Part of the project’s mission is to also introduce sustainable business practices, including following a circular economy model, Iñiguez and Henry said.

“We’re intentional in how everything is being used and recycled,” Iñiguez said. “And the importance of this is not just for what we’re gonna do here in the community, but it’s also providing an example of what businesses can do. … We want to show that there is an alternative, that it’s still profitable, that it also gives back and it’s not greedy.”

The development team said they’re trying to be “intentional” in their sustainability efforts, including following a circular economy structure (demonstrated above). Credit: Provided

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