One South Side alderman said better management could have prevented the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville from its pending foreclosure.
One South Side alderman said better management could have prevented the Harold Washington Cultural Center in Bronzeville from its pending foreclosure. The $19.5 million center boasts 40,000 square feet and was built with $6.8 million in general obligation fund bonding from the city, which also oversaw $1 million in federal empowerment zone grant funding that has since expired. The facility at 4701 S. King Drive, named after Chicago’s first Black mayor, was built in 2004 as an attempt to revamp the Blues District in the South Side community. However, Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), said she would like to see the center managed in a way that embraces African American heritage more. “That corner needs to be an entertainment corner and the Harold Washington Cultural Center has got to be the magnet to get things going,” she told the Defender. “The cultural center is the economic vitality of the area.” She added that her chief concern is not so much making sure the facility is managed by a Black organization or company but rather keeping it a cultural center. “Good management certainly is a big part of any business being successful but the future use of the building is of more concern to me right now than who manages it,” she said. But according to Jimalita Tillman, executive director of Tobacco Road Inc., the Harold Washington Cultural Center “has not been foreclosed on (and) Tobacco Road Inc. still owns and operates (it).” Urban Partnership Bank, formerly ShoreBank, is the lender for the center and Brian Berg, a spokesman for the bank, said foreclosure proceedings are moving forward. “Nothing has changed with us,” he said. “Court proceedings on the foreclosure for the Harold Washington Cultural Center are ongoing.” At Defender press time, it could not be confirmed how much Tobacco Road currently owes Urban Partnership Bank. Last August ShoreBank filed a foreclosure suit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking $1.3 million against Tobacco Road on a $1.4 million mortgage it issued in 2004 when the commercial building opened. Tobacco Road embarked on a fundraising campaign that asked citizens to help keep the facility open. Lance Lewis, a spokesman for Mayor Richard M. Daley, said, “we are aware of the situation at the Harold Washington Cultural Center and we are working on a resolution.” Dowell said she is disappointed that the HWCC has not been able to generate the foot traffic it was widely anticipated to produce when it opened six years ago. “Community businesses draw off each other but I see very few events taking place these days at the Harold Washington Cultural Center,” she added. Copyright 2010 Chicago Defender