Woodlawn Central master plan would bring hotel, housing, arts and commerce to the 63rd Street corridor

WOODLAWN – A mega-church on the south side plans to create an 18-acre ‘culture’ complex with mixed-income housing, performance venues, black-owned businesses and more along the 63rd Street corridor in Woodlawn, church leaders announced Friday.

Woodlawn’s central master plan, a proposal centered and led by the Apostolic Church of God at 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., could bring $ 300 million to $ 600 million in investment to the neighborhood over the next decade, said his supporters.

The master plan calls for up to 870 housing units, a 154-room hotel and 215,000 square feet of office and retail space, among other amenities. The projects would be developed on properties close to the church, including parking lots belonging to the church.

The plan will prioritize “established and emerging” black entrepreneurs and creatives, although national and international partners are welcome, said developer J. Byron Brazier, son of Apostolic Church pastor Byron Brazier. Over 80 percent of Woodlawn’s residents are black.

Woodlawn Central is “the introduction of a rare but specific model that says the only way to develop the black community is from within,” J. Byron Brazier said.

The extensive plan, which redeveloped 8 acres of property, includes:

  • A mixed-use complex on 63rd Street north of the church with 605 housing units and 47,000 square feet of office and retail space.
  • A 200-seat theater and two 20-seat “shoebox” theaters “designed for local entertainment,” with seating flexibility to attract performers with larger fan bases, Brazier said.
  • A nine-storey, 810-space parking structure to replace the redeveloped lots. The structure would include 38 housing units and retail space.
  • A redesign concept for the 63rd Street Metra station. Metra did not discuss the plans with the developers or agree to a redesign, Byron Brazier said on Friday.
  • A 126,000 square foot office and retail building.
  • A 530,000 cubic foot vertical greenhouse with 56 housing units.
  • Housing options for seniors and workers.
  • An energy micro-grid on 64th Street to supply the developments.

A hotel chain will anchor the campus, which is centered less than a mile from the Obama Presidential Center site in Jackson Park, the Chicago Business Journal reported on Monday.

J. Byron Brazier said he was “asked not to name the channel on Friday,” but they will confirm the case within the next 30 days.

“We hope there will be a lot of synergy with the Obama Center,” said J. Byron Brazier. “We think there is already a synergy there, with the overall conceptualization of what the 63rd and Dorchester can be. It makes sense to have a hotel.

Credit: Central Developers of Woodlawn, LLC
A render of the vertical greenhouse in the Woodlawn Central development plan (left, with a pyramid roof) and the theater (right, with an angled roof), looking east along 64th Street.
Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club Chicago
A chain and lock restrict access to an Apostolic Church of God parking lot at 64th Street and Kimbark Avenue on December 17, 2021. The site would become a vertical greenhouse with 56 housing units under the plan Woodlawn Central.

After years of divestment and scourge, residents have seen an increase in development and international attention – particularly east of Cottage Grove Avenue – since the Obama Center’s plans were announced in 2016.

The Braziers did not specify how many of the proposed units would be reserved for affordable housing.

“We will add an inventory of affordable housing to this community, as well as a destination location for businesses that are here,” said Byron Brazier. “We will meet the specifications of Woodlawn’s affordability order. “

Much needs to be done before the complex is built, including final designs, financing, environmental reviews and public approval processes, said J. Byron Brazier.

The developers’ “aggressive” schedule is to lead the way in 2023 and complete “at least 85 to 90 percent” of construction by 2026, he said.

“We’re calling 63rd and Dorchester” – which will house the 605-unit mixed-use complex, office and retail building and hotel – “the living room” of the development, said J. Byron Brazier. “We think this is the best place and we’re going to work our way around it.”

Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club Chicago
The intersection of 63rd Street and Dorchester Avenue, facing east, December 17, 2021. A chain of hotels, which will be located at the southeast corner of the intersection behind the Apostolic Church of God, would anchor the development of Woodlawn Central.
Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club Chicago
A parking lot across from 63rd Street from the Apostolic Church of God would become a mixed-use complex with 605 housing units as part of the Woodlawn Central plan.

Quick turnaround of project plans will require modular construction, where the components of a structure are prefabricated before being assembled at the construction site, said J. Byron Brazier. The developers plan to use the Full Stack Modular process.

“I want this to happen as quickly as possible, because I think a catalyst shouldn’t take 10 years,” he said. “There is so much more in the community that deserves this level of attention.

“There will be different levels of quality” for construction depending on the prices and amenities of the units, he said. “We’re not, you know, connecting trailers together and covering them together. This is real technology.

The Woodlawn Central project grew out of earlier development plans for the neighborhood, including the church-backed 1Woodlawn effort, said Byron Brazier.

Byron Brazier credited Skidmore, Owings and Merrill; Ginsler; AECOM; Citibank; the University of Chicago; Preservation of affordable housing; residents who attended 1Woodlawn community meetings; and the church congregation for helping to create the plan.

“We started to present until [church] board, to the congregation, and now we’re here with the community, ”said Byron Brazier.

The project proposal resists false perceptions about Woodlawn and other black urban communities, said J. Byron Brazier.

“This is our opportunity to show the rest of the world that our communities are not what has always been considered ‘the ghetto’ or ‘the neighborhood’, he said.“ This is our opportunity to show our culture and show how we serve our own community and serve the rest of the world. ”

Credit: Maxwell Evans / Block Club Chicago
On December 17, Apostolic Church of God pastor Byron Brazier (left) and his son, J. Byron Brazier, discuss the Woodlawn Central redevelopment plan for the 63rd Street corridor.

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