A team has been selected to revitalize a vacant tract of land in Auburn Gresham on Chicago’s South Side. The estimated $19.4 million project, which is part of the city’s innovative INVEST South/West initiative, will create a new five-story building with approximately 56 units of affordable housing near the intersection of Halsted and 79th streets.

Known as Auburn Gardens, the development comes from Evergreen Imagine JV LLC, which consists of developers Evergreen Real Estate Group and Imagine Group and the design firms of Carol Ross Barney and NIA Architecture. 

Like all INVEST South/West winners so far, Auburn Gardens will be mixed-use. It is targeting a restaurant and an athletic goods retailer for its ground-floor retail space.

“Projects on major commercial corridors form the heart of a neighborhood,” said David Block, director of development with Evergreen. “Just building housing isn’t enough. You need to invest time, energy, and money into revitalizing these corridors.” 

Block says that he sees Evergreen’s Auburn Gresham project replicating the same kind of success the company experienced with its recent Independence Apartments and Northtown Apartments which “co-located” affordable housing atop new Chicago Public Library branches. 

“You bring activity to the street level and it's reinforced by the people living upstairs,” said Block. “Chicago originally developed that way, with the ‘living above the store’ model, and we think there’s still some wisdom in that.”

The project at 838 W. 79th Street will likely use some of the more conventional tools for financing affordable housing such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits and funding from the area’s existing tax increment financing (TIF) district. 

Other projects included in the first round of INVEST South/West were a community ‘eco-food hub’ in Englewood and the adaptive reuse and expansion of Austin’s former Laramie Bank building into 72 units of mixed-income housing and a blues museum.

Block expects Auburn Gardens to likely be the first project rolled out since its layout is less complicated compared to the other winners. “There’s a fair amount of pressure on us to deliver,” he said.