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A Black Inventors Museum Or A Health Center? Officials Weigh Proposals For South Shore Development

Both projects pitched for 79th Street would include housing near public transit, plus shops.

An aerial view of 79th Street and Exchange Avenue, where two developers have proposed projects to redevelop buildings and vacant land.
Chicago Department of Planning and Development
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SOUTH SHORE — Two developers are vying for the city’s and neighbors’ approval to redevelop properties at 79th Street and Exchange Avenue through the Invest South/West program.

The two proposals — Array Innovation Exchange and Thrive Exchange — would bring transit-oriented housing and shops to a 1.7-acre site at 7901-33 S. Exchange Ave., but their similarities largely end there.

Array Innovation Exchange would create 40 apartments, several storefronts and a Museum of Black Technology and Engineering. The team behind the proposal is led by Urban Array Impact Development.

Thrive Exchange proposes 86 affordable apartments, 24 condos, 11,000 square feet of retail space and a Chicago Family Health Center facility. It’s backed by a team including DL3 Realty and Claretian Associates.

The site, next to the Metra Electric line’s Cheltenham station, includes three low-rise structures and vacant land. The properties are privately owned, save for a city-owned lot at 7909 S. Exchange Ave.

The 79th and Exchange intersection is one of the priorities of the South Shore Corridor Study approved by city officials last year. The study called for transit-oriented developments along Exchange Avenue at 75th and 79th Streets, where bus lines and Metra stations converge.

The project site includes the three-story Ringer Bank building at 7915 S. Exchange Ave., which was built in 1928 and is “very likely” eligible for designation as a Chicago Landmark, city officials said in April.

The long-vacant building has many maintenance issues, but developers are encouraged to preserve the building’s defining features “as much as reasonably possible.” The planning department “will strongly support” the chosen developer in seeking landmark status for the former bank.

Both developers pitched South Shore and South Chicago residents on their plans at a community meeting Wednesday evening. Officials plan to select the winning proposal in mid-October.

A recording of Wednesday’s meeting is available here.

Here’s more on the plans:

Credit: Provided
A rendering of the Array Innovation Exchange proposal.

Array Innovation Exchange

The $43 million project would take 60 percent of its funding from government sources like Tax Increment Financing, tax credits and grants. The rest would come from bank loans and private investors.

The developers propose 40 apartments, of which 24 would be market-rate and eight would be affordable.

Eight other units would be above market-rate and reserved for the project’s “entrepreneurs-in-residence” program, through which participants could access an on-site startup incubator, said Marquis Davis, director of the Urban Array Foundation.

The incubator would be hosted in the structure, which would incorporate the Ringer Bank building’s facade.

“We probably can handle about 35 businesses a year in different cohorts,” Davis said. The incubator “will be open to community members who get filtered through our partners” like the South Shore Chamber.

Credit: Provided
The historic Ringer Building’s facade would be incorporated into the building design.
Credit: Provided
The Duæl restaurant concept on the roof of the Array Innovation Exchange would establish four-week residencies for two restauranteurs at a time. At the end of each residency, the two would compete in a tasting competition.

A museum at the intersection of 79th and Exchange would highlight Black inventors and engineers. The Chicago chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers is a community partner on the project.

One of the storefronts would host a coffee shop and roaster. Other amenities in the project include a digital media studio and a competitive restaurant concept on the rooftop.

To view the Array Innovation Exchange pitch video, click here.


Credit: Provided
A rendering of the Thrive Exchange proposal.

Thrive Exchange

The three-part Thrive Exchange project is expected to cost $65 million. The developers budgeted for $35.2 million in tax credit equity, $16 million in city funding and $6 million in private investment.

A residential campus on the north side of 79th Street would have 49 apartments, and 39 more units would be on a south campus. All apartments would be affordable for residents making 30-80 percent of the area median income, or $27,950-$74,550 for a household of four.

The Ringer Bank building would be rehabbed to host a medical center and tech incubator. The Chicago Family Health Center is a community partner on the project.

In a separate but related project, Revere Properties would develop 24 condos on vacant land along Exchange Avenue, across from the former bank building. The units would feature two to four bedrooms, private parking and rear yards. The condo project is budgeted at $11.8 million.

The north and south campuses, the Ringer building and the condos “can stand alone, but ideally they’re meant to work together as a community,” said Tania Kadakia, project lead for DL3 Realty.

To view the Thrive Exchange pitch video, click here.

Credit: Provided
A rendering of the proposed public plaza.
Credit: Provided
A west-facing view down 79th Street of the Thrive Exchange project.

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