The campus of Chicago State University in the Roseland neighborhood on April 7, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

ROSELAND — Chicago State University is looking to boost Roseland’s 95th Street corridor, potentially overhauling 4 acres of vacant land into student- and family-focused developments.

The economic development plan targets 95th Street between King Drive and Cottage Grove Avenue. The plan recommends several projects on vacant land with a focus on adding to the community’s housing and retail options and improving pedestrian experiences, among other points.

The plan proposes four sites for mixed-use buildings. The university would first prioritize two sites near the Metra station at 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, followed by the redevelopment of two sites near St. Lawrence Avenue and King Drive.

The site at the northeast corner of 95th and Cottage Grove is city- and privately-owned, while the other three sites are owned by the university. In total, the plan calls for up to 240 units of student and family housing and up to 45,000 square feet of academic and retail space.

The projects can establish 95th Street as a draw for neighbors on the Far South Side and in south Chicagoland, local leaders said during the plan’s launch Monday at the Gwendolyn Brooks Library, 9501 S. King Drive.

“We are ready to anchor the work,” Chicago State University President Zaldwaynaka Scott said. “We are ready for additional investment and the amenities that retail, entertainment and more academic venues can [provide] for our local residents.”

Chicago State University president Zaldwaynaka Scott speaks during the Oct. 16 unveiling of a development plan for the 95th Street corridor. The plan calls for four mixed-use developments to be built on vacant land on Chicago State’s campus and near the 95th Street Metra stop. Credit: Maxwell Evans/Block Club Chicago

University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator in Washington Park, Casa Querétaro in Pilsen and the Thrive Exchange development in progress in South Shore can be models for the sites near the Cottage Grove Avenue intersection, officials said.

Concepts for the Cottage Grove sites include ground-floor retail space for “services that cater to both the [university] population and the surrounding community,” like a coffee shop and bookstore. Student housing and apartments would be built on the upper floors.

The western sites near St. Lawrence Avenue and King Drive could be modeled after projects like the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Academic and Residential Complex or UChicago’s Campus North Residential Commons, officials said.

Concepts for the western developments include four mixed-use buildings with retail and academic space on the ground floor, with student and family housing above.

The proposal would maintain existing pedestrian paths, keep as many mature trees as possible — an important point for the several hundred neighbors who informed the plan — and create more public space for activities, officials said.

Chicago State’s 160-acre campus is an asset to the community, but “we aren’t using it nearly as much as we could,” said Rep. Nicholas Smith, a Chicago State alum. “I was so happy to take a look at this plan and see that we’re proposing to add some more buildings on the main corridor.”

To view the full development plan, click here.

A rendering of the planned development sites at 95th Street and Cottage Grove Avenue, near the soon-to-be-renovated 95th Street Metra Electric station. Credit: Chicago State University
A south-facing rendering of the planned development sites on 95th Street between King Drive and St. Lawrence Avenue.

The transit-oriented development proposals come as Metra and Chicago State are set to begin overhauling the 95th Street station in 2024. The $45 million project will bring new headhouses on the platforms, waiting areas with on-demand heat and a new park-and-ride lot to the Metra Electric Line stop.

The proposals are also within a mile of the 95th Street Red Line Station, which reopened in 2019 after a $280 million renovation and will connect to Far South Side stops along the future Red Line Extension to 130th Street.

“What a joy it is to see this possibility coming to fruition right next door to one of the greatest transportation hubs in Chicago,” Ald. William Hall (6th) said.

It will cost an estimated $250 million to complete all aspects of the development plan, Scott said.

That will require public and private funding, as well as continued feedback from neighbors and pitches from local developers and institutions, officials said. There is no concrete timeline for the plan’s completion.

“Each of us has something we can do to bring this vision to life,” said Karen Freeman-Wilson, president and CEO of the Chicago Urban League. “My challenge to you is to roll up your sleeves to do just that.”

Chicago State University in Roseland. Credit: Facebook/Chicago State University

The university and others involved in the development plan must do more to answer residents’ questions and encourage community input as the projects move forward, some neighbors said after the meeting.

A panel of politicians and civic leaders praised the plan for nearly an hour, but they took only two questions during a Q&A session before closing the meeting.

Sylvia Jones, vice president of the South/West Area Civic League of Chicago, called for the eventual developers to make it a priority to hire minority contractors for their projects.

The university should look to improve its existing infrastructure as it prepares for the developments, said Deborah Foster-Bonner, a former 6th Ward aldermanic candidate.

“Is [the development] going to be like what’s here now, or is it going to be better?” Foster-Bonner said. “Why not fix what’s wrong now?”

Chicago State and the city’s planning department agreed in late 2020 to study future development on 95th Street.

Community members named wider pedestrian walkways; additional restaurants, grocery and retail; more housing; reflections of Black culture and preservation of the campus’ greenery among their priorities for development, officials said.

A virtual public meeting will be held 6 p.m. Nov. 1 to discuss the future of the wider 95th Street corridor — including the Chicago State study area between King Drive and Cottage Grove, and stretching west to Halsted Street. To register, click here.

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