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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Little Village’s Xquina Cafe And Incubator Will More Than Double In Size, Move Across The Street

The project will now include a shared commercial kitchen and gallery event space.

A rendering of the proposed Xquina Cafe, now planned for 3523-3525 W. 26th St.
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LITTLE VILLAGE — A long-planned cafe, incubator and co-working space in Little Village is now slated to be built across the street from its original proposal — and more than double in size.

Xquina Cafe is now expected to be built in two buildings at 3523 and 3525 W. 26th St., allowing it to increase from a planned 6,000 square feet to 13,000 square feet, according to the the Little Village Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber Executive Director Blanca Soto said the move came after plans for the original site across the street fell through. Instead of abandoning the project — and losing out on city funds — the chamber and the Little Village Community Foundation bought the new site last year, Soto said. 

Under the revised plans, the first floor will include a larger cafe area than previously expected as well as a business incubator, conference room, multimedia space and a shared commercial kitchen run by Food Hero, Soto said.

Credit: Renderings
The first floor renderings of the new Xquina Cafe.

The second floor will include co-working space, private offices, a multimedia room for podcasting and a conference room. The third floor will be a gallery for local artists and an event space, Soto said.

The project aims to provide resources to aspiring entrepreneurs and an open and inclusive environment with culturally relevant programming to Little Village residents, Soto said. 

‘It’s an equity project’

The chamber originally announced the plans for Xquina Cafe in 2018. The idea was born after a feasibility study found 33 percent of Little Village residents are between the ages of 18 and 35.

Following the study, the Little Village Chamber of Commerce looked at ways to create a gathering spot for millennials that is “culturally relevant and caters to the Little Village population,” Juan Saldana, principal at P3 Markets, previously told Block Club Chicago.

RELATED: Vacant Little Village Storefront Will Become ‘Game Changer’ Business Incubator, Cafe

Saldana said the Spanish and English bilingual programming, (Juntos Lanzamos, Juntos Emprendemos, Juntos Avanzamos), helps provide aspiring entrepreneurs guidance on starting their business and existing business owners with other resources.

Kim Close, the Little Village Chamber of Commerce executive partnership director, said there are a lack of Spanish-speaking resources in the area. 

“All the programs we offer are designed to help small businesses … and give them access to resources,” Close said. “A lot of the resources small businesses need are located in the Loop … and we want Xquina to be a hub to provide resources out on the the West Side … that’s in Spanish and culturally relevant.”

“It’s an equity project,” Close said. 

The project is estimated to cost $4.6-$4.8 million, Saldana said.

A combination of funding from the city, state, foundations and private capital will be used to launch Xquina. The chamber is awaiting on final City Council approval to increase its Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant from $250,000 to $1.5 million, Saldana said.

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund program allows developers to pay a fee to build bigger and taller projects Downtown. The money they pay into the fund is then used to support projects in city neighborhoods.

The Xquina project is being broken up into two phases. Later this year, the chamber wants to start the first phase, which includes restoring the exterior of the 1888 building and completing the first floor interior. Officials expect to have the first phase done by next spring or early summer.

Design Bridge is the architecture firm working on the project.

While the group has received several grants, Saldana said they have also taken on debt to move the project forward. A tremendous of amount of work, dedication and sacrifice have gone into “keeping the project alive,” Saldana said.

“We are doing this for our community. It belongs to the community but it’s not without sacrifice,” Saldana said.

The project is community led at every level from design to construction to programming, Saldana said.

It is a “preservation project,” Saldana said. “We want to preserve not only the integrity of the building but also the culture of the community.”

While the project has grown in size, Saldana said the mission hasn’t changed.

The project aims to bring more resources to “create more community wealth” through various programming and partnerships and help “revitalize portions of the 26th Street corridor,” Saldana said.. 

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