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Englewood, Chatham, Auburn Gresham

Shuttered Englewood School Will Get New Life As Hub To Help Formerly Incarcerated People

Woods Elementary, closed in 2013, will become "The Regenerator," an innovation hub, upcycling lab and garden with job training for people living in dorms on site.

Englewood's Granville T. Woods Elementary, one of 50 schools shuttered in 2013, will reopen as a job training center in 2022.
Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago
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ENGLEWOOD — A shuttered Englewood school will get a second life providing second chances to people leaving the prison system.

Granville T. Woods Elementary, 6206 S. Racine Ave., is the future home of the Reentry Holistic Life Center, a facility that will house job training and others programs designed to help Englewood’s most vulnerable residents and boost the local economy.

Woods was one of 50 schools closed by Chicago Public Schools in 2013, rapidly falling into disrepair shortly thereafter.

Nicknamed the “Regenerator,” the venture is part of the Go Green on Racine initiative, a multi-million-dollar collaboration between local groups to bring environmentally sustainable development to the area around 63rd Street and Racine Avenue

Go Green was launched by the Inner-city Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Teamwork Englewood, Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), and E.G. Woode. It was one of several finalists for the $10 million Chicago Prize, which was awarded Auburn Gresham’s healthy lifestyle hub.

The Regenerator would offer dormitory-style housing for participants in an on-site job training program. It would also be home to a neighborhood pharmacy and a legal clinic.

The facility would also serve as an innovation hub where residents can take cooking classes, tend to a “food forest” garden and an upcycling and creativity lab.

Other parts of the Go Green on Racine plan include a fresh market cooperative, a entrepreneurial incubator and a mixed-use development with affordable housing and a pizzeria.

Credit: PROVIDED.
An artist’s rendering of the Reentry Holistic Life Center, part of the Go Green on Racine initiative.

Obtaining control of the site has been an adventure for the team. Chicago’s Board of Education only recently approved the transfer of the property to the city’s Department of Planning and Development, which then will turn it over to them in a few months.

But organizers said it will have all been worth it in the end to salvage a building that had been “criminally neglected.”

“When we walked through the building, it was very emotional. Why was this acceptable? How can you just allow a 60,000-square-foot facility to stay vacant, vandalized, and neglected? It just speaks to everything we’re trying to address in this moment,” said Rami Nashashibi, IMAN’s executive director.

Current participants in IMAN’s Green Reentry program are receiving training to help rehab the building, which will take months, organizers said.

The $12 million project is being partially funded by the Crown Family Foundation and Islamic Relief USA, a humanitarian agency dedicated to ending poverty. The Regenerator also caught the attention of Marcus Lemonis, host of CNBC’s “The Profit,” who has committed an undisclosed amount of support, and the group is in talks with other private entities in hopes of closing the gap on remaining funding needed within the next year.

Stakeholders would not disclose how much more funding is needed.

With the community in mind, the project will be Black-led from start to finish, with Bowa Group serving as general contractor and architecture firm Wheeler Kearns in charge of design.

“We’re unapologetic about that. It has to be Black with everything, quite frankly, and we’re being very explicit about that,” Nashashibi said.

The Reentry Holistic Life Center is set to open in 2022.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the Crown Family Foundation provided the bulk of funding for the $12 million project. The foundation provided $1.5 million.

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