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Chicago Urban League Partners with Landmark Development to Create a Transformative Economic Opportunity Program Tied to ONE Central Development

“SouthSideWORKS” is Designed to Support and Finance More Equitable Economic Development and Infrastructure Investment in South Side Neighborhoods

The Chicago Urban League and Landmark Development are collaborating on a comprehensive framework for a new program designed to create economic opportunities in neighborhoods that have been historically underinvested – starting on the South Side of Chicago. The program, called SouthSideWORKS, is tied to Landmark’s proposed ONE Central multi-modal transit hub and mixed-use destination development, which was enacted by the State of Illinois in 2019.

When the ONE Central project moves forward, SouthSideWORKS will help ensure that South Side residents and business owners are prepared to take advantage of the opportunities it will create. The League and Landmark are optimistic that this program will be a model for other neighborhoods in Chicago, communities throughout Illinois, and cities across the country.

“Chicago is often considered a ‘tale of two cities,’ with our neighbors to the north living one way, and communities on the south and west sides struggling to attract any level of investment and resources that can help them grow,” said Karen Freeman-Wilson, President & CEO of the Chicago Urban League, located in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood. “The SouthSideWORKS program seeks to create a new narrative focused on equity and opportunity. It is intended to be an investment not just in physical neighborhoods, but in people.”

The initiative will utilize a combination of proprietary tools and new and existing programs to build M/W/DBE capacity, provide training and education for youth and adults, and build a diverse pipeline of talent for in-demand careers at ONE Central and throughout the region. Importantly, it will also inject new, private funding sources to build affordable and workforce housing and stimulate other development throughout the South Side along transit lines.

“We’ve been inspired by the Chicago Urban League’s mission and Mayor Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative to think more holistically about the opportunity we have to create wealth in neighborhoods that have lacked sufficient private investment,” said Robert Dunn, President & CEO of Landmark Development. “With this initiative, we’re making significant private capital available to provide the resources needed to grow household incomes. The research clearly shows that this will require creating new jobs, improving transit access, developing underutilized land, and defining a long-term strategy that bridges from construction into operations.”

As part of the ONE Central project, Landmark is committing to provide a $50 million working capital line and covering all bonding and insurance for M/W/DBEs working on the ONE Central project. Landmark has also pledged $30 million toward construction of an education and workforce development center. Additionally, $200 million in initial private equity capital is committed to fund a community investment program. The community investment program is structured to align with an equal amount of private matching equity funds from interested investors in what Landmark, the Urban League, and other partners believe will become Illinois’ new growth corridor. Landmark estimates this endowment will support construction of between 5,000 and 7,500 affordable rental housing units and as many as 2,500 affordable owner-occupied homes in South Side neighborhoods tied to transit and new employment.

“Together, these components of SouthSideWORKS will take a community-driven approach to improving quality of life, creating wealth and providing for long-term investment in infrastructure and private development in neighborhoods that have been losing population and seen shrinking household incomes for years, despite the growth and prosperity of the Chicago’s Central Area,” said Freeman-Wilson.

Eric S. Smith, chairman of the League’s board of directors and a vice chairman for BMO Harris Bank added, “The Chicago Urban League has been working to improve the quality of life for African Americans for more than 100 years, and there is still much more work to do. SouthSideWORKS aligns perfectly with our mission of advancing economic and racial equity and can help propel underinvested communities forward for decades to come.”

Founding sponsors of SouthSideWORKS and the resulting business venture are the Chicago Urban League and ONE Central master developer Landmark Development. Additional partners in structuring the program’s framework and building out its programs include the Business Leadership Council, the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, as well as other civic, business, and labor organizations.

Other unique attributes of SouthSideWORKS include its focus not just on construction jobs and training, like other M/W/DBE and workforce development programs, but also operations. It will leverage underutilized land in South Side neighborhoods to establish the growth corridor and provide convenient transit access to employers who want to locate or relocate here. The Chicago Urban League, Landmark and other partnering organizations are confident that this model can meet state and city public policy goals for more inclusive economic development and equitable transit-oriented development.

The program, which will also create a business entity that implements its work, is still in the planning stages. Pending approvals of the ONE Central development, the Chicago Urban League intends to work with other community organizations to achieve the goals of SouthSideWORKS.