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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Closed Bronzeville School Overhaul Among City-Funded Projects To Boost Entrepreneurship On South Side

A culinary incubator, a sustainable commercial center and a community hub will receive money from the program.

The Overton Center for Excellence in Washington Park received a $20,000 ETOD microgrant last fall.
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GRAND BOULEVARD — Three Bronzeville projects are getting a boost thanks to the Chicago Recovery Grant, a program to kickstart local businesses.

Soul City Kitchens, Bronzeville Sustainable Commercial Center and the Overton Center for Excellence are among 26 recipients getting a total of $33.5 million in grants through the program.

The Overton Center for Excellence, 221 E. 49th St., will receive $5 million for work to convert the former elementary school into office space for creative entrepreneurs and nonprofits. Ghian Foreman, who bought the site in 2015, received a separate grant, known as a Equitable Transit Oriented Development, in the fall.

Foreman said the organizers are using a variety of grants and tax credits “to produce an end result that will serve as a model for community development.”

Foreman and his team, which includes Borderless Studios Founder Paola Aquirre Serrano, have been steadily working on the $14 million project, building a rainwater garden on one side of the school and art installation on the other. The site hosts programs throughout the year to engage everyone from residents to students.

Credit: Provided.
An artist’s rendering of Soul City Kitchens, a new community kitchen planned for Washington Park.

Soul City Kitchens, 5021 S. Wabash Ave., will get $1.85 million to convert an old Streets and Sanitation building into a culinary incubator for South Side entrepreneurs. Urban Equities, a Black-owned firm, will renovate the existing 1,700-square-foot building and construct an 8,300-square-foot commercial kitchen. 

It will be a place where culinary entrepreneurs can connect, learn and support each other while providing the neighborhood with better food options, Urban Equities CEO Lennox Jackson said during a community meeting earlier this year.

Kitchens would be leased on an as-needed basis and complement nearby initiatives like Boxville, an incubator that allows small businesses to take a trial run at brick-and-morta”stores.

The Bronzeville Sustainable Commercial Center, 4131 S. State St., is set to receive $250,000 to build commercial space for small business owners to lease. Tenants Omni Ecosystems and 13th Flow Gym were joined by Hatch 41 — a eco-friendly coworking space — in the fall.

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