CHATHAM — The Rev. Joseph Gordon said his church has strived to create a housing development in Chatham for years.
Carter Temple CME Church has owned 5 acres of vacant land next to the 79th Street Red Line station for almost two decades, but its leaders have struggled to find the right partners to bring it to life. Now, with a developer on board and financial assistance from a new city program, Gordon and his congregation are taking steps toward making the “long-awaited housing” a reality.
The church’s Gateway 79 project, a mixed-use building at State and 79th streets, was one of 11 winners of the city’s Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Pilot Program. The initiative strives to support developments near transit stations in disinvested areas on the South, West and Southwest sides.
In partnership with Elevated Chicago and Enterprise Community Partners, the city awarded up to $20,000 to the winners, with each project receiving up to $20,000. Gordon said Gateway 79 received $15,000.
“Sometimes it’s all about timing, and this was the right time,” Gordon said. “Other pastors and other members who have even gone on to glory, who have transitioned, they planted this project, but we’re grateful to water it now and to have the support of the city behind it.”
Gateway 79 will have housing dedicated to families and seniors at the top, and a 14,000-square foot retail space at the bottom, Gordon said. The NHP Foundation, a not-for-profit real estate organization that preserves and creates housing for low- and moderate-income families and older people, is the leading development partner on the project.
“Part of the church’s focus has been on meeting the needs of people,” Gordon said. “But our major priority remains economic development. We chose [to build] housing specifically because we know that there is a housing crisis, not simply in the nation, but in the Chatham area, as well. We wanted to bring modern, affordable housing to our seniors and working families.”
Gordon said the $15,000 from the city will be used for social media, advertising, a design contest and gathering neighbor feedback. Nothing in the community “happens in isolation,” he said.
“We understand the value of community. We understand the power of partnerships, and that change really does come through collaboration,” Gordon said. “We’re looking not only for the voices of our temple members and partners but also the voices of our community to speak out to let us know what they’re interested in.”
Details of the project are still being sorted out, Gordon said. But he hopes to use minority-owned businesses along the way.
The goal is to create a “gateway” into the Chatham community and inspire more economic development in the neighborhood, Gordon said. The project name is both “practical and aspirational,” he said.
“We’re looking to provide hope but also to give modern affordable housing to seniors and working families, and to really let them know that Chatham is a great place to live, a great place to work and a great place to be,” Gordon said.
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