Retail N Illinois

New Jewel ends 50-year food desert for Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood

Aaron Gornstein, POAH president and CEO, shakes hands with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Jewel-Osco ribbon cutting in Woodlawn. Aaron Gornstein, POAH president and CEO, shakes hands with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel at the Jewel-Osco ribbon cutting in Woodlawn.
Representatives of The Preservation of Affordable Housing, Terraco, DL3 Realtythe City of Chicago and members of the community cut the ribbon on a new Jewel-Osco in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. Representatives of The Preservation of Affordable Housing, Terraco, DL3 Realtythe City of Chicago and members of the community cut the ribbon on a new Jewel-Osco in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.
The new Jewel-Osco in Woodlawn brings five-decade-long food desert to a close for the Chicago community. The new Jewel-Osco in Woodlawn brings five-decade-long food desert to a close for the Chicago community.

The Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) joined with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and community members to celebrate the grand opening of a new Jewel-Osco store in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The move comes after more than $410 million in investment over nearly a decade of redevelopment efforts that started with a modest rehab of the long-troubled former Grove Parc development, leading to the area’s first population growth in 50 years.

Located on POAH’s final lot of vacant land at 61st Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue, the new 48,000-square-foot, full-service grocery store and 24/7 drive-through pharmacy eliminates a food desert that had not seen a full-service grocery store open in Woodlawn in a half-century. The new store, only minutes from the future home of the Obama Presidential Center, created more than 200 new jobs filled by residents recruited and trained by POAH and Jewel as part of a 12-month employee development program at the Woodlawn Resource Center.

The grand opening of the new Jewel-Osco store is the latest milestone in a surge of developments fueled by a $30.5 million U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Choice Neighborhood Grant awarded to POAH and the City of Chicago in 2011. Since then, they have turned the funds into more than $410 million of investments from public and private organizations for new housing, retail, commercial and community amenities to help revitalize Woodlawn. The investments in new developments over the last seven years have made a difference—for the first time in 50 years Woodlawn’s population has increased, up 15 percent, while the number of vacant properties has plummeted.

Besides the Jewel-Osco store grand opening announcement, earlier this year POAH competed construction of Woodlawn Station, a new transit-oriented mixed-use development adding 70 mixed-income rental apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail adjacent to the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line train station. Daley’s, the oldest restaurant in Chicago, will make Woodlawn Station its new home once it puts the finishing touches on its new location within the new development. And in 2018, POAH completed construction of primarily market-rate rental apartment building, Trianon Lofts, directly across the street from the new Jewel store.

“A new grocery store in Woodlawn and the first increase in population, both in more than 50 years, combined with the turning of a $30.5 million federal grant into $410 million in new housing, stores, schools and more aren’t miracles,” said Meghan Harte, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation/Chicago. “Rather, they’re indicators of smart public and private investments as part of an effective, comprehensive community redevelopment strategy.”

The new Jewel-Osco Woodlawn location was developed by a joint venture of Terraco and DL3 Realty, who obtained the 3.5-acre, vacant lot from POAH for $2 million. The new grocery and pharmacy will offer fresh produce, a deli counter, ready-to-eat meals and a variety of services for customers.

“We knew that by taking down the foreboding old Grove Parc and replacing it with well-designed mixed income housing both on South Cottage Grove and in the neighborhood, we would attract new businesses like a Jewel grocery store that would help make Woodlawn a community of choice,” said Aaron Gornstein, POAH president and CEO. “Thanks to long-standing partners like the City of Chicago, University of Chicago, Greenline Development, Robust Coffee, KMW Communities and other new for- and non-profit groups making investments, the results have exceeded our expectations and are continuing to increase everyone’s confidence in this great community.”

The foundation for change was laid when POAH was brought to the community in 2008 at the request of tenants, advocates, the City of Chicago and HUD to the demolish and replace the 504-unit all Section 8 Grove Parc Plaza, which had been on everyone’s troubled building list for years. While initially it was a housing preservation and renewal project, in 2011 POAH, in partnership with the City of Chicago, was awarded the $30.5 million Choice Neighborhoods Grant which challenged them to use the funds and redevelopment of housing as a springboard for community-wide renewal.

The result of this investment has been striking. It includes new senior and family housing buildings, The Grant, The Jackson, and The Burnham; neighborhood amenities like MetroSquash, offering year-round recreation and mentoring programs; and The Woodlawn Resource Center, providing job placement and training services.