A rendering of the proposed Xquina Cafe, now planned for 3523-3525 W. 26th St. Credit: Provided

LITTLE VILLAGE — Construction on the long-anticipated Xquina Incubator & Cafe project is expected to start this summer, officials said.

The community hub and business space, which was introduced to residents in 2018, will soon take over the rehabbed two- and three-story buildings at 3523- 3525 W. 26th St.

Project leaders and local officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in September 2020, but construction was repeatedly delayed due to the pandemic, said Kim Close, interim executive director and chief operating officer of the Little Village Community Foundation. It was slated to wrap up last summer, but even that date was a delay from a previous expected completion of 2019.

Close said she now anticipates the entire building will be open and operational by 2023.

“We’re just so thrilled that this is moving forward,” Close said. “At the end of the day, it’s about creating the most impactful community of Little Village, that’s the end goal. It’s a place-based entrepreneurial ecosystem that will live on 26th Street. It’s important that it has a home on this extremely important corridor.”

The first floor will feature a cafe run by Ambrosio Gonzalez, of La Catedral Cafe, a bilingual business incubator. It will also have a shared commercial kitchen run by Little Village-based Food Hero, a culinary education startup. The second floor will have a co-working space, while the third floor will be a gallery for local artists and an event space.

While the project was delayed most recently, officials continued funding efforts and have now fully financed it, Close said. It’s a $4.8 million endeavor with a mix of city, state and private money, Close said.

The Little Village Community Foundation is also the sole owner of Xquina, Close said. It was previously a joint effort from the foundation and the Little Village Chamber of Commerce. There was a settlement to make the foundation the lone owner, Close said, but she declined to provide details.

The business services Xquina will offer are already being offered through the foundation, but the building will give infrastructural support to create lasting economic and community opportunities, Close said.

“These resources, this technical assistance to help [people] get access to capital, like micro grants, whatever they need to get their business to grow and to prosper … those services are currently being delivered by the foundation,” Close said.

Although the incubator will be in Little Village, the services will be available for anyone, Close said.

“Entrepreneurial services exist in The Loop. They exist in other places. Why is Chicago putting $1.5 million into into Xquina? It’s because they want those services available here on the Southwest Side in Spanish,” she said.

Construction on rehabbing the two- and three-story buildings on the corner of 26th Street and Drake Avenue is expected to start this summer. Credit: Provided

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