PULLMAN — An innovative restoration project 10 years in the making officially opened Thursday in Pullman as community members cut the ribbon on the Pullman Artspace Lofts, an $18 million effort hailed as the neighborhood’s first new residential development in 60 years.
A collaboration of nonprofit groups worked to rehab two long-vacant 1880s buildings at 11137-49 S. Langley Ave. that are on the National Register of Historic Places. A new, 32,000-square-foot building was constructed between the two, creating a complex now called the Pullman Artspace Lofts.
Beginning Thursday, it will house residents at 60 percent or below the average area median income and attract artists who can live and work in the building. Six of the building’s 38 units will be for Chicago Housing Authority residents.
Residents moving in Thursday included multi-media artists, painters, photographers and musicians.
Much of the space is open, a blank canvas for artists to personalize. The building includes amenities such as a gallery, an outdoor guitar and dance performance space and a residents lounge.
“Pullman has long attracted a share of artists and creative people, and today marks the first day that local artists can actually point to their own place and call it home,” said U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, who was on hand for the ribbon cutting. “Art stimulated the soul, our culture and our lives.”
The project was conceived by the PullmanArts organization, which worked with three nonprofit developers: Artspace, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and PullmanArts. It was funded and supported by the National Park Service, U.S. Bank, Preservation Chicago, Landmarks Illinois, Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and the CHA.
“It’s really important to take into context everything that’s happened. This project sits on the shoulders of community members, leaders, residents and neighbors that came together and decided that we want to leverage all the creativity that is in our community and bring it here,” said Frankye Payne, president of PullmanArts and Black House Gallery. “We want to be a beacon for the South Side. We want to be an example of what inclusivity and engagement looks like.”
“For the artists who live in the building, one of the things that a resident artist has said is it’s beyond brick and mortar, it’s about space and it’s about community,” said Kim Moore, director of asset management and community impact for ArtSpace.
The project is one of several in the past decade to revitalize Pullman by creating jobs and restoring old buildings that are part of the historic Pullman district, the first model, planned industrial community in the United States.
The district is now known as the Pullman National Monument. Other projects include the restoration of long-vacant rowhouses and the restoration of the Pullman Clock Tower and Administration Building at 11057 S. Cottage Grove Ave., the former headquarters of the Pullman Company.
Kristin Faust, executive director for the Illinois Housing Development Authority, said the revitalization of Pullman has been possible due to the many investors and the partnership between Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives and Artspace, as well as the use of state and federal tax credits.
“This is a scarce resource, we are only able to finance the very best projects. We mean projects that address local needs. We mean projects that support a broad range of housing choices in the community and that complement local planning efforts,” said Faust. “Which means, what does the community want, this is what the community wants.”
Thursday’s grand opening kicked off a three-day celebration of the project. The event, called the Block House, will showcase resident artists and include music, free food and the opportunity for community members and outside visitors to buy art unique to Pullman.
The event continues 4-6 p.m. Friday and 2-4 p.m. Saturday.
“Over the next three days we are going to highlight the creativity that is in this building and honor the creatives,” Payne said.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: