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This edition of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation newsletter focuses on the Chicago Prize 2020 Finalist team from North Lawndale, “Now is the Time: Advancing North Lawndale Together.”

We’re sharing updates on three of the projects included in their Chicago Prize submission, which reflect progress in job creation, affordable housing, healthcare access, and commercial and retail development: Sinai Chicago’s new outpatient surgery center at Ogden Commons; the North Lawndale Employment Network’s new campus; and the Lawndale Christian Development Center’s housing development for returning citizens.

Chicago Prize Finalist: North Lawndale
Sinai Chicago:
Healthcare . Retail . Housing

Ogden Avenue is an always-busy thoroughfare, angling west from Chicago’s Loop, across city neighborhoods and into suburbs, bustling with car, truck, transit, bike, and pedestrian traffic. But there is one particular two-block stretch where things are busier than ever: It’s the new home of Ogden Commons, a rising development that will boost North Lawndale’s access to health care, affordable housing, and retail services.

Sinai Chicago has been working on Ogden Commons for years as part of “One Lawndale”, the Quality-of-Life Plan led by the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council (NLCCC). “That plan reflected what the community wanted. It was a vision, but it didn’t have any dollars attached to it,” says Debra Wesley, Sinai Chicago’s executive vice president for community outreach. With the Chicago Prize, the volunteer-led NLCCC saw an opportunity to fund their vision. “We had that aha moment,” Debra said. “We are shovel ready.”

Becoming a Chicago Prize Finalist team brought additional visibility that has helped advance the project, Debra says. “It’s been a plus in terms of showcasing the benefits of this project and what it means to the community,” leading to the first major investment in the community in decades, she says. “There’s something exciting happening here.”

Supported by $7 million in CARES Act funding awarded by the City of Chicago, Ogden Commons is being developed by the Habitat Co., with Sinai Chicago and Cinespace Chicago Film Studios as partners. It is considered an asset to the city’s Invest South/West corridor development strategy and is slated to include over 300 units of mixed income housing, an on-campus children’s museum, and a full-service grocery store. Its first building on the north end of the campus, which will be Sinai Chicago’s new outpatient surgery center and comprehensive care clinic, will welcome its first patients this winter.

To ensure that the new site will be a valued community asset, Sinai Chicago formed the 20-member Ogden Commons Community Council. “We want to hear the voice of the community to know what it should look like, what’s inside of it, how it functions, and what their vision of customer service is,” Debra says. “All of these things are being addressed and interwoven into the operational plan” to create a building that feels welcoming in its architecture, colors, materials, and service, she says. “It’s a top-to-bottom holistic approach (because) it has to be a healing environment, too.”

Sinai Chicago’s center is phase one of the full Ogden Commons’ plan. It will include a bank, two Black-owned restaurants and Momentum Coffee, a Black-owned coffee shop. The coffee shop plans to carry honey produced by Sweet Beginnings, a for-profit entity of the North Lawndale Employment Network’s workforce development program. The building’s artwork is being curated by the Council’s arts subcommittee, led by Omar Magana, executive director of the Open Center for the Arts in Little Village.

Beyond serving health needs, Sinai Chicago sees its new center as a major investment in the community, leading to local hiring for jobs and affordable housing. “We’re also viewing this as an economic vehicle for the community,” says Dan Regan, Sinai Chicago’s vice president of communications, public relations and marketing. “Healthy living also means that you have the economic means to take care of yourself.”

“ One goal of the Chicago Prize was to provide capital to strong community teams with big catalytic vision. We’re proud that most of the North Lawndale’s projects — NLEN, LCDC, and Odgen Commons — got the full funding they needed to get to the finish line. These additions to the community are transformational. Thank you to the incredible community leaders that came together to make it happen.”

— Cindy Moelis, President

North Lawndale Employment Network

The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) uses workforce development innovations to change lives. Its 40-person staff works passionately to connect North Lawndale residents to job training, career paths, financial education, and more. Sometimes, though, life-changing ideas start with the board of directors.

President and CEO Brenda Palms-Barber remembers when her board approved a $10 million capital campaign to build a new headquarters that could house all NLEN programs. “I admit, I shed a few tears when they asked me to raise that amount of money,” she says. “I had never raised this much money at one time and was so afraid of not being successful and falling short of expectations.”

Fears overcome, Brenda and her team have been wildly productive: They have raised $10.3 million, of which $2.5 million is from the City of Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. This spring, they will move onto their new campus, while working on sustaining funding so they can keep dreaming big and delivering big impact. “It’s been a real journey filled with determination, grit, and a clear-eyed vision of a North Lawndale community where families thrive, work, and play,” Brenda says. “We have important work to do to reduce the unemployment rate in North Lawndale by 10 percent by 2024 and equip job seekers with the tools and jobs to advance and earn middle-wage jobs and improve the quality of their lives. We have big work ahead.”

Chicago Prize 2020 has been part of that journey. As a member of the North Lawndale Finalist team, NLEN has benefited from collaborating and building capacity with North Lawndale peer organizations and other Chicago Prize Finalist teams. The rigor of the Chicago Prize process resonates and has earned the respect of potential donors, Brenda says, and it has helped “people understand that there are committed and talented leaders of color who are doing remarkable work, and with access to capital, can drive economic mobility and transformation for the good in their community. These are just a few key benefits of our earning selection as a Chicago Prize Finalist.”

NLEN has converted a long-vacant bank building into its new headquarters, filled with natural lighting, featuring a state-of-the-art training center, a café, an event space, a peace garden, a bank, a staff lunchroom, and spaces for local entrepreneurs to showcase their pro ducts. This reflects NLEN’s focus on building community health and serving as an economic engine in the area, says Jessica N. Butler, NLEN’s chief development officer. “The interior of the building brings the beauty of downtown to the West Side, and gives people places to connect and meet.”

The new campus will hold a public opening in late August. “We will no longer be one of North Lawndale’s best-kept secrets,” Brenda says. “We want people to know we are here to serve and to be a stepping stone on their journey to living their dreams.”

“ The Pritzker Traubert Foundation continues to support the Chicago Prize Finalists in a number of ways, and fundraising in particular. All the teams have additional fundraising goals to meet to ensure that their projects are completed and sustainable. We’re encouraging donors to take a close look at these plans, and to become part of catalytic community development in Chicago.”

— Andrew Beideman, program officer

Lawndale Christian Development Corporation

Since its founding in 1987, Lawndale Christian Development Corporation (LCDC) has worked to revitalize the North Lawndale community through economic empowerment, housing development and community advocacy.

LCDC and its partners are taking on the empty lots in the community to construct affordable housing for working-class families, a fundamental component of North Lawndale’s resident-driven Quality-of-Life Plan, which was designed around the values, desires and needs of residents and community stakeholders to advance the collective vision of North Lawndale and build a thriving and healthy community.

“We usually talk about infrastructure as it relates to roads and bridges, but the pandemic has shown that affordable housing is a critical infrastructure need in this country. Housing is health,” says Richard Townsell, LCDC’s executive director.

The revitalization of the Lazarus Apartments complex will create 48 units of affording rental housing for families, nine of which will be set aside for formerly incarcerated residents. The first 15-unit building is currently in construction, while closing on the second 33-unit building is expected later this spring. For the second component of its project, LCDC is working with United Power for Action and Justice to create homeownership opportunities for community members through the development of 1,000 homes on the West Side. The groundbreaking of the first two homes took place in late March.

An enduring result of the Chicago Prize journey has been the deepening of connections and working ties among the North Lawndale team members. “We’ve made a collective commitment to stick together and celebrate each other’s successes,” Richard says.

Between the strengthening of those partnerships and the community-driven Quality-of-Life Plan, North Lawndale is building a new civic engagement model for city leadership and divested communities, says LCDC Director of Development Whittney Smith.

“One of my favorite sayings is ‘What you do for people without people, you do to them’,” Smith said. “We’re not looking for anyone to come in and do anything for us. We have our own plan and we’re looking for partners who can help us advance the vision that we have for our community.”

Other Chicago Prize highlights

Learn about what other Chicago Prize Finalist teams have been working on through the updates below:

Auburn Gresham

Enjoy an exclusive look at the incredible work taking place on Chicago’s South Side as a long-vacant, 1940’s terracotta building on 79th Street is being transformed into Auburn Gresham’s Healthy Lifestyle Hub. On track to open in early 2022, the hub is one of three Chicago Prize 2020-funded projects in Auburn Gresham, and it aims to be a beacon of economic opportunity and community engagement, and will include a full-service health and wellness center operated by University of Illinois Hospital Systems.

To inquire about how you or your organization can support the Auburn Gresham projects, please contact Norma Sanders via

United Way of Metro Chicago honored the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation at its 2021 Stronger Neighborhoods Awards on May 25. Business, civic, nonprofit and community leaders were celebrated for their commitment to building stronger neighborhoods for a more equitable Chicago region. Click here to learn more about the awards.

In support of GAGDC’s work for the Auburn Gresham community, CEO Carlos Nelson was chosen by the Chicago Bears to announce the football team’s first-round pick at the 2021 NFL Draft on April 29. Click here to watch the announcement.


Chicago Prize Finalist team Go Green on Racine, led by Inner-City Muslim Action Network, Residents Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), Teamwork Englewood, and E.G. Woode, is set to open its fresh market, Healthy Marketplace, in Englewood this June. The market will make healthy eating accessible for at least 6,000 community members.

To inquire about how you or your organization can support the Englewood projects, please contact Sana Syed via

South Chicago

The South Chicago Finalist team We’re Steel Here was honored at the LISC annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards (CNDA) on June 3 for its community plan and outstanding achievements in working to build healthier neighborhoods in the Chicago metropolitan area. Click here to learn more about the awards.

To inquire about how you or your organization can support the South Chicago projects, please contact via Angela Hurlock

Thanks to Funders

The Pritzker Traubert Foundation continues to be appreciative of the many philanthropic, corporate and civic organizations that have contributed to the Chicago Prize and to the projects being advanced by the six finalist teams. To these funders, we express thanks for your investments and supports.