Boxville, a South side shipping container mall, is open for its third season, giving local business owners a low-cost way to conduct business. The evening event had more than 200 participants flowing in and out of the outdoor marketplace. Boxville is one part of a larger community revitalization effort called “Build Bronzeville.” The effort seeks to blend entrepreneurship, food and the arts, historic destinations, and neighborhood beautification to connect neighbors and expand economic opportunity in the area.
“In order to make Chicago better for everyone, we have to turn communities like Bronzeville around,” said Bernard Loyd, president and founder of Urban Juncture. “’Build Bronzeville’ uses the culture and people of our historic community to develop commerce and bring jobs back for residents and to attract visitors to enjoy our unique food, music, and the arts. And Boxville is a key part of that effort.”
The Boxville opener, held on the 154thanniversary of Juneteenth, honored the day of belated emancipation by celebrating freedom through commerce, music and education — including a book giveaway, food and fun for community residents and visitors. In addition to local artisanal, apparel, and food vendors, the opener also featured a makerspace with screen printing and Fresh Moves Mobile Market with fresh produce for sale.
Bronzeville is a community of more than 100,000 residents with a rich history as the “Black Metropolis” where African Americans created a vibrant community around a strong, local consumer-driven economy and attractive entertainment venues. The area started to decline in the 1960s due to disinvestment and other factors. Currently, more than 40 percent of the residents make less than $25,000 a year and private sector jobs make up less than a third of jobs in the area.
“We at the Chicago Community Loan Fund have long contributed to community stabilization and development efforts to restore communities like Bronzeville,” said Maurice Williams, vice president of economic development at The Chicago Community Loan Fund. “Build Bronzeville is an exciting effort to revitalize a community not just important to black Chicago, but Chicago overall.”