Historic Rosenwald Courts Reopens in Chicago’s Bronzeville

The $132 million restoration project required the rehabilitation of 239 one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors and families.

By Jeffrey Steele

Rosenwald Courts, Chicago
Rosenwald Courts, Chicago

Chicago—The venerable, long-vacant Rosenwald Courts, an apartment building constructed in 1930 at the request of educator Booker Washington, has reopened in Chicago’s historic South Side Bronzeville neighborhood.

Built by Chicago-based Sears, Roebuck & Co.’s President Julius Rosenwald, and designed in the Moderne style by Rosenwald’s nephew Ernest Grunsfield Jr., architect of Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, Rosenwald Courts was listed on the National Register of Historic Places 35 years ago. Rosenwald Courts Developers LLC handled the restoration with financial support from the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority.

Situated at 47th Street and Michigan Avenue, the property was originally built to provide workforce housing for African-Americans who were part of the half million-strong “Great Migration” to Chicago in the early part of the 20th Century. The apartment complex has been restored to once more serve as a community anchor.

The $132 million restoration project required the rehabilitation of 239 one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors and families. Of those units, 120 are reserved for CHA senior residents, 105 are rented at affordable rents, six are rented at market rates and the remaining eight are earmarked for on-site employees. The project also included 40,000 square feet of 47th Street retail and office space. Commercial tenants will include a coffee shop, ice cream store, a daycare facility and a financial institution.

City of Chicago support included $25 million in tax increment financing, $41.8 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity, a $17.4 million CHA loan, an $8.5 million loan from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, $2.9 million in donations of tax credit equity, and a $65.6 million bond issue to bridge financing during construction. Other funding sources included $18.3 million in historic tax credit equity, $7.8 million in seller financing from The Burton Foundation, a $2.4 million bank loan, a $785,000 Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity grant and a $700,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank.

Five adjacent lots owned by the city and valued at $115,000 were sold to the developer for $1 each to provide parking.

“Thanks to a strong partnership and commitment to creating strong, stable neighborhoods, we are bringing back a historic property to Bronzeville and providing quality, affordable housing in the way this building did when it was first built almost 90 years ago,” said Eugene Jones Jr., Chicago Housing Authority’s CEO.

Rehabilitation efforts centered on providing new central entrances with sprawling lobbies and elevators, new mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, restoration of the building’s facades, community rooms, fitness center and computer facilities. New landscaping, playgrounds, bike storage and dog runs went into the upgraded courtyard.

“After sitting vacant for more than 15 years, this important community asset and mixed-use redevelopment will create jobs for the community, provide opportunities for neighborhood businesses to grow, and create much needed affordable housing for community residents,” said Chicago 3rd Ward Alderman Pat Dowell.

Image via Google Maps

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