Chicago Public Library (CPL), in collaboration with Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD), announced today two new libraries will be part of mixed-use developments planned for the Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park communities. The Library also announced that it will leverage $18 million in capital bond funding for a new library branch serving the Woodlawn community. These investments are a testament to the city’s ongoing efforts to promote literacy, education, and community engagement.
Part of the City’s INVEST South/West initiative, each of the new libraries will anchor mixed-use developments that also include residential and commercial spaces. This approach to development aligns with the Library’s commitment to creating vibrant, welcoming spaces that serve as anchors for their communities.
“These new facilities will provide crucial resources and support to our residents, helping to strengthen our communities and promote education and lifelong learning,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “We are proud to invest in our neighborhoods through the creation of mixed-use developments and look forward to seeing these new libraries become hubs of activity and lifelong learning.”
This mixed-use approach is a natural next step after CPL partnered with the Chicago Housing Authority in recent years to provide three new mixed-income housing developments with libraries as anchor tenants, as well as a new library development in Altgeld Gardens combined with a childcare facility.
“Investments in Chicago libraries are an investment in safe and welcoming community anchors. We are thrilled to unveil two new library locations that are not just spaces to access information, but also serve as catalysts for community growth and development,” said Chicago Public Library Commissioner Chris Brown. “In addition, these projects support educational milestones, provide vibrant cultural hubs and bridge the broadband gap by bringing together books, technology, and community resources to create vibrant, mixed-use spaces that will benefit residents for generations to come.”
“The inclusion and creative reimagining of library resources as community hubs within the buildings, elevates these two simple mixed-use, residential projects to the status of new civic icon,” DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox said. “Centered around colorful, light-filled multi-purpose spaces that serve as a beacon and focal point visually for the neighborhood they underscore, ‘hey, this is the cool place to be!’”
The Back of the Yards Branch library will be replacing the library currently located within the Back of the Yards High School campus in a new, more central location in the Back of the Yards/New City neighborhood, where it will be accessible to the entire community. In addition to the library branch, the development at 4630 S. Ashland Ave. is slated to bring affordable housing. It will also feature a federally qualified health care center, a performing arts center, headquarters for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council and spaces for nonprofits Chicago Commons and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation. The library will be funded primarily by a $15 million state grant, obtained by State Representative Theresa Mah.
“This new CPL branch is the result of years of advocacy and discussion and coordination across multiple levels of local government,” said Representative Mah. “I’m proud to have played my part in securing state funds to support this development and know the final product will be a valuable asset to the Back of the Yards and New City communities.”
The new branch will be more centrally located within the neighborhood in order to reach the entire community and will offer easy access via pedestrian foot traffic and public transportation. The library is a natural fit within the project’s overall family hub, setting up potential partnerships with other organizations within the development, elevating the services that all can provide within the site. The approximately 16,000 sq ft library space will be owned by the City, with a separate entrance from the remainder of the building. The project will include below ground parking for the library, as well as green space on the exterior, which will be available for public use.
“Chicago is fortunate to have such an active, community-focused library system whose branches are gateways to so many critical City resources,” said Alderman Ray Lopez (15th). “By integrating this library branch into a mixed-use development with residential units on site, we are working to intentionally foster a learning- and health-centered neighborhood here in Back of the Yards that is inclusive of our cultural richness & diversity.”
“When I was a kid, the library was a safe place but it was hard to get there. The current library is even more difficult to access and is not safe for my part of the community,” said Back of the Yards resident Joseph Mapp. “It is very exciting to learn that this new library will be located at the center of our community, and we have the chance to build a safe space with all the resources we need, and it can be a library for everyone. Black, brown, everybody—doesn’t matter. We can all get to know each other without worrying and hopefully that will carry forward to the whole community.”
The innovative and transformative $55.3 million project will be built at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Road by Team Pioneros. This groundbreaking development goes beyond simply building a new library branch. In addition to the approximately 16,000 sq ft public library space, Team Pioneros will breathe new life into the historic Pioneer Bank building, with plans to transform it into a thriving entrepreneurial incubator space, Latino cultural center, and offices for JGMA.
The project also includes the redevelopment of a 0.75-acre parking lot north of the bank, which will feature a stunning nine-story, 100 percent affordable residential building with 75 units, offices for Humboldt Park Family Health, and a new library branch. This visionary development is being led by Park Row Development in partnership with All Construction Group and JGMA.
The Team Pioneros takes a bold and innovative approach to community development to create new opportunities for growth and enrichment. The project promises to be a beacon of hope for the community, providing a range of services and amenities that will serve as a hub of activity for years to come.
“Mayor Lightfoot’s invest South/West initiative responds to the needs of our community that we have been waiting for—for a long, long time,” Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said. “I have worked closely with the Department of Planning & Development and Chicago Public Library to create additional affordable housing and a brand-new library. Our working families will now have a greater opportunity to live where they work and be an integral part of a more inclusive Chicago.”
“The opening of a new library at the Pioneros development will be an amazing addition to our collective growth as a community; particularly as we develop the Puerto Rican collection, which will add new dimensions to the historical presence and persistence of Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park and in the city of Chicago,” said José E. López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.
“These projects are incredibly exciting, where libraries are the momentum builders for other critical community programs like housing to shine a bright light on positive things for Chicago,” said JGMA President Juan Moreno. “As a firm, we’re proud and honored to be a part of bringing design excellence to these communities on the south and west sides.”
Each new library facility will offer a built-out early childhood active learning space, and programs and spaces for area children, teens and families. Free one-on-one homework assistance will be provided for school-aged children through the Library’s Teacher in the Library program. Teens will have access to technology, resources, and classes that inspire exploration, creativity, and learning through the YOUmedia program. Traditional library programs, such as book clubs and educational and cultural programming will also be offered, as well as computer classes and one-on-one coaching to build digital literacy, technology and job-seeking skills for adults and seniors.
CPL also announced that they have secured $18 million for a new library branch in the Woodlawn community. The neighborhood has been served by the Coleman Branch Library, at 731 E. 63rd Street, since it opened on March 27, 1993. The branch was named after pioneering pilot Bessie Coleman (1892-1926), the first black woman to fly an airplane and the first African American to earn an international pilot’s license.
Chicago Public Library is committed to providing resources and services that support lifelong learning, inspire curiosity, and connect communities. The opening of these new locations is a significant step toward achieving that mission. For more information on Chicago Public Library and its programs and services, visit www.chipublib.org.