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Bronzeville, Near South Side

Black Development Duo Bringing More Restaurants, Retail and Housing To 51st Street Corridor

Policy Kings will include apartments, retail and restaurants in the former space of Cain's Barber College. The first stores could open as soon as October.

This abandoned building in Washington Park will soon be transformed into Airbnb-style apartments, retail, restaurants and a state-of-the-art gym by a Policy Kings, a Black-owned development team.
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WASHINGTON PARK — Two South Side natives hope to transform a long-abandoned building in Washington Park into a multi-million dollar mixed-use development.

Corey Gilkey and James Daughrity are behind Policy Kings, an initiative that “combines architectural innovation with environmentalism, cultural elevation diversity and effortless cool.” They said they are weeks away from breaking ground on their two-story, 17,220 square-foot project at 353-363 E. 51st St., once home to Cain’s Barber College. 

Plans call for six eco-sustainable apartments, retail spaces, indoor and outdoor dining, an elevated gym, a women’s sneaker store, Queenz, and a Leaders 1354 location.

The team used 10 percent of their own capital for the $6.1 million project — which recently received a $2.3 million Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant — and is working with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Chicago Community Loan Fund on the remainder of the funding, Daughrity said.

The project has the support of Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), who wrote a letter of endorsement early on, Daughrity said.

Bringing the project to his old neighborhood is a full circle moment for Daughrity, a real estate investor who grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes and went to Cain’s every year for his $3 “Back to School” haircut. Gilkey is a founding member of Boxville and owner of Friistyle, one of the restaurants moving into the new development.

“We saw a building that had been abandoned for over 10 years. Instead of complaining about it we actually put our money together to purchase it, which we did in cash because no bank wanted to give us a loan. That’s how we secured the site,” Daughrity said.

Credit: Provided.
A sketch of the mixed-use development planned for the 51st Street corridor.

The six apartments would serve as short-term rentals for out-of-towners coming into the city for events, Daughrity said. 

“We’re going to do more like Airbnb or VRBO so we’re trying to fill that gap because there are no quality hotels in that immediate area, and the ones in Hyde Park are always at capacity. If someone is coming to town for a University of Chicago graduation, or the Silver Room Block Party, they can find additional hotel access there,” Daughrity said.

The duo is working with a Black-owned contractor, Nation Builders, to ensure 80 percent of subcontractors are Black, women or minority-owned. Policy Kings plan to hire from the neighborhood, as well. 

“One of their goals is to find multiple routes through which the community can be engaged, whether through events and public offerings — restaurants that everybody can enjoy, a gym that anybody in the community to work out in — or through the nonprofit organization they’re opening to focus on community engagement and ways to bring wealth back into the community,” publicist Jasmine Michaels said.

The project will be broken in into four phases, with the Leaders1354 and Queenz grand openings planned for mid-October and reaching full completion by late 2023.

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