A rendering of the Woodlawn Central plan's vertical greenhouse (at left, with pyramid roof) and the theater (at right, with angled roof), looking east along 64th Street. Credit: Woodlawn Central Developers, LLC

WOODLAWN — A South Side megachurch’s plans for a cultural complex along 63rd Street in Woodlawn will have a “significantly higher” price tag than initially thought, its developer said Friday.

The Woodlawn Central Master Plan, a proposal centered around and led by the Apostolic Church of God at 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., would be developed on properties near the church, including church-owned parking lots.

The master plan calls for up to 870 housing units, a 154-room hotel and 215,000 square feet of office and retail space, among other amenities.

Cost estimates for the project have risen to $700 million-$1 billion, up from the initial $300-$600 million estimate given as plans were announced in December, developer J. Byron Brazier said.

“There were some capital pieces that we needed to add into the overall project,” said Brazier, son of Apostolic Church pastor Byron Brazier.

A preliminary estimate from Metra on the cost of a proposed 63rd Street station redesign and the inclusion of a jobs initiative for Woodlawn residents in the plan are among the reasons for the increase, J. Byron Brazier said.

Metra met with Woodlawn community leaders to discuss an overhaul of the 63rd Street station, including concepts like a new head house and a pedestrian walkway, spokesperson Mike Gillis said. The Canadian National railway company, which owns the east side of the rail tracks, may need to be consulted depending on what the station project involves, he said.

The Woodlawn Central developers and Metra have not discussed how they’d split costs for any upgrades, Gillis said.

“Only very rough costs were discussed,” he said. “Without understanding all of the elements of the station, it is impossible to put a detailed figure together.”

The wide-ranging plan, which redevelops 8 acres, includes:

  • A complex on 63rd Street north of the church with 605 housing units and 47,000 square feet of offices and shops.
  • A 200-seat theater and two 20-seat “shoebox” theaters “designed for local entertainment,” with seating flexibility to draw performers with wider fanbases, Brazier said.
  • A nine-story, 810-space parking structure to replace the redeveloped lots. The structure would include 38 housing units and retail space.
  • A redesign concept for the 63rd Street Metra station.
  • A 126,000-square foot office and retail building.
  • A 530,000-cubic foot vertical greenhouse with 56 housing units.
  • Senior and workforce housing options.
  • An energy microgrid on 64th Street to power the developments.

A hotel chain will anchor the campus, which is centered less than a mile from the Obama Presidential Center site in Jackson Park.

The developers have chosen a hotel chain to work with, but it won’t be announced until the summer, J. Byron Brazier said. At December’s unveiling, he said he was “asked to hold off” from naming the chain, but would do so within 30 days.

The project’s design and architecture team will be finalized by the end of the month, J. Byron Brazier said. With cost estimates and initial financial projections complete, the developers are preparing for an intake meeting with the city’s planning department by November, he said.

“We’re going to do something in 2023, whether it’s an installation [to outline what the project will involve] or actually breaking ground,” J. Byron Brazier said. “We are going to make sure that the community knows that we are looking to not just talk about what we’re doing, but we want to show that there’s going to be something there.”

An aerial rendering of the Woodlawn Central development, centered around and led by the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave. Credit: Woodlawn Central Developers, LLC
The intersection of 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue on Dec. 17, 2021. A hotel chain, located at the southeast corner of the intersection, will anchor the Woodlawn Central development plans. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

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