ENGLEWOOD — Developers of a multimillion-dollar project that would transform a historical Englewood firehouse into an eco-food hub could break ground this fall as they work through the summer to get final approvals.
McLaurin Development Partners, a real estate development team, received a key city approval this month from the Community Development Commission to bring its Englewood Connect project to fruition.
Englewood Connect will turn the vacant, 98-year-old firehouse at 63rd and Halsted into an eco-food hub and year-round community “living room” where neighbors can gather and local businesses and entrepreneurs can grow and operate.
The project was the winning proposal in the city’s INVEST South/West initiative, created by Mayor Lori Lightfoot to bring new developments to West and South Side neighborhoods.
Phase one of Englewood Connect, which will include restoration of the firehouse and construction of the “Living Room,” is estimated to cost $15 million. Previous estimates placed costs around $10 million.
The project must now move through multiple layers of City Council review. If all is approved, developers hope to break ground on Englewood Connect as early as this fall, Zeb McLaurin, Chief Executive Officer of McLaurin Development Partners, said.
“Englewood Connect would be one of the catalysts that not only continues the turning of the tide of perception of Englewood but also as a shining example that there is a viable economic development opportunity in Englewood and the South Side,” McLaurin said.
Englewood Connect was also one of six development projects to receive grant funding from the Chicago Community Trust’s “We Rise Together: For An Equitable And Just Recovery” initiative.
The Trust awarded more than $4.5 million in funding to six projects, including McLaurin’s Englewood Connect, to bring new opportunities to disinvested Black and Latinx communities hit hardest by the pandemic.
McLaurin did not disclose how much funding Englewood Connect received from the fund.
Englewood Connect is one of several projects slated for the community.
Thrive Englewood, a 108-unit mixed-use building spearheaded by DL3 Realty, the real estate developer behind nearby Englewood Square, is proposed for vacant land behind the Square at 914 W. 63rd St.
The project, described as a “beacon” by developers, would be built in two phases, the first consisting of a six-story building, the second a five-story, multi-family residential building. Estimated costs for the project are $28.4 million.
Local officials are also vowing to bring a grocery store to Englewood that would replace Whole Foods at 832 W. 63rd St.
Whole Foods announced in April it would close the Englewood location less than six years after opening with a pledge to bring healthy food options to a food desert.
Lightfoot promised to bring another store to the community. More than 30 alderpeople, including Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th), whose ward includes the store, are calling for a hearing with the city, state and federal officials to address a lack of food access in underserved communities.
“We have to address food deserts and the lack of food access in our communities,” Coleman said. “The city needs to work on building relationships with operators and creating policies that help us.”
Meanwhile, McLaurin credited Coleman with getting Englewood Connect off the ground. Without her efforts, the project would not be as far along in the process as it is, McLaurin said.
“Irrespective of what has occurred or might occur with Whole Foods, our project is intended to continue the economic development that has occurred for the last decade-plus in Englewood,” McLaurin said. “We give a lot of credit to Alderman Stephanie Coleman, who has spearheaded the work and the resources of the community to lure more business development and business investment in the area.”
Englewood Connect will live up to its name, connecting resources and relationships in the community like none before, McLaurin said.
“This is something that has never been seen or done before on the South Side,” McLaurin said. “We’re looking forward to bringing this grand vision to Englewood and collaborating with any neighborhood institution that would love to be involved with us.”
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