ENGLEWOOD — A South Side collective is teaming up to bring two restaurants and a test kitchen to Englewood in 2023, ushering in an ecosystem of diverse businesses.
E.G. Woode — a group of architects, designers and entrepreneurs — will open the E.G. Woode Food Hub in fall 2023. They want it to be a culinary hot spot with sit-down restaurants, a pop-up kitchen and offices. It’s the second part of a three-phase plan that aims to open eyes and businesses in Englewood.
The $5.3 million hub at 1022 W. 63rd St. will house restaurants Pass the Peas, a casual soul food restaurant, and Ellie’s Urban Grill, a sports and entertainment restaurant with wings, salmon croquettes and fried food.
E.G. Woode’s kitchen will give restauranteurs space to operate a pop-up restaurant and share a range of cuisines with the community for 30 days before committing to a brick-and-mortar business.
If the restaurant is successful, the owner can continue to partner with the collective to “launch a full-scale strategy and get their doors open,” said Deon Lucas, architect and leader at E.G. Woode.
Englewood has few casual dining restaurants where neighbors can sit down, order and have their food brought to the table, Lucas said.
If neighbors want to catch a sports game and have a bite to eat, they have to leave the community, Lucas said. When they want to have lunch with a business partner or dinner with the family, they have to drive to Hyde Park or Bronzeville, a “frustrating” endeavor, Lucas said.
The E.G. Woode Food Hub will bring a unique experience to people who “want to stay in your own backyard,” Lucas said.
“We want to use these three businesses in this facility as a means to increase the number of active casual dining restaurants on 63rd Street and all through Englewood,” Lucas said. “We hope that it will show and demonstrate that there is a need and desire for people to have these spaces in Englewood, and it will encourage other restauranteurs who might not even want to be a part of E.G. Woode to decide to establish themselves here.”
The collective recently received a $1.1 million Rebuild Illinois Downtowns and Main Streets Capital program grant to fund the food hub. Nearly $4 million in tax-increment financing approved by the Community Development Commission this month pushed the project to its $5.3 million total. The hub is “fully funded on paper,” Lucas said.
Funds will cover “hard and soft costs,” including construction on the building, furniture, decor, fixtures and equipment, Lucas said.
The restaurant owners will move into the building and be able to work “on day one” without the need to buy anything else, Lucas said.
“With this type of resource from the city and the state, we get to pay it forward exponentially to the next crop of entrepreneurs, and they can benefit handsomely from the reduced burden of debt,” Lucas said. “I am joyful, appreciative and fortunate to be in this position. But we still have a lot of work to do.”
A lot of that work will go into revamping the 10,000-square-foot building to create the vision Lucas drew on paper more than seven years ago.
Rather than constructing a building from scratch, E.G. Woode believes in taking a property neighbors “have seen at its ugliest” and restoring it to awe the community, Lucas said.
The South Side collective accomplished that feat in August when they opened their commercial hub with four business owners of color at 1122 W. 63rd St. They’ll do it again with their food hub, Lucas said.
“There’s a certain attraction to restoring what’s old into something that can look and feel new,” Lucas said. “Everyone wants to see it and experience it. We want to do something different.”
The food hub is the second step in a three-part plan to create a thriving ecosystem of indoor and outdoor activities in the community, Lucas said.
The goal is to encourage people who walk or drive through Englewood to see its success and want to be a part of it, as that’s how communities grow, Lucas said.
“We are seeking respect as a community to know that we have the assets and amenities that other communities already possess, and we don’t have to fight for them anymore,” Lucas said. “I’m looking forward to the day where Englewood isn’t a topic of discussion because it isn’t lacking.”
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