Black Developers in Chicago Band Together to 'Buy Back the Block'

A group of developers joined efforts to purchase a dozen adjacent lots with plans to build affordable housing and create local jobs.

June 29, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Gold Coast and Old Town

James Andrews1 / Shutterstock

In an article in Chicago Business, five Black developers–Bonita Harrison, Sean Jones, Keith Lindsey, Dajuan Robinson, and Derrick Walker–make the case for the "buy back the block" movement, calling it "a call to action to put Black communities into Black ownership." The authors have collectively rehabbed hundreds of vacant housing units into modern homes across Chicago's South and West sides in communities like Chatham, Roseland, East Garfield Park and Englewood," creating more than $100 million in Black wealth. After working independently, the five developers realized they could band together to achieve more of their shared goals. After partnering up, they write, "we purchased 12 abandoned lots where we'll soon build new, state-of-the-art homes in a community that desperately needs quality and affordable housing." 

The group cites the Cook County Land Bank Authority as a pivotal partner. "By being intentional about empowering developers who know their communities, the Land Bank is a true partner to 'little guys' like us and a true partner to Black neighborhoods where tax-delinquent properties and vacant land are often left to decay for years." According to the authors, "[t]hese transactions would not have been possible without the Land Bank, which removes enormous barriers from the process of acquiring vacant homes and clearing title without using any taxpayer money. Without the Land Bank, these homes would have either remained abandoned or been purchased by a large developer who had the resources to sit on them for years until gentrification guaranteed a hefty return."

The developers plan to employ "an all-Black team reflective of this community," including "formerly incarcerated citizens, who often struggle to move forward without much help once they're outside; older citizens, who may have a hard time finding work; and those who haven't had many opportunities but who, once given a chance, find tremendous pride and do an outstanding job in building up the neighborhood." They hope the project will also inject new investment into the neighborhood and promote more redevelopment with Black-owned businesses leading the way.

Friday, June 18, 2021 in Crain's Chicago Business

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