The South Chicago community joined with Mayor Lightfoot, U.S. Representative Robin Kelly, and 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza to celebrate the formal opening of a renovated senior affordable apartment building and its new community center in a building preserved by two Chicago nonprofits.
Built 93 years ago for the YMCA, the property at 3039 East 91st Street served as the Southeast side’s community and athletic center and provided low-income affordable housing. When the building was put up for sale, many feared that the critical community asset would be lost. Instead, the building was purchased and renovated by a partnership between two of Chicago’s most respected advocates for community development and affordable housing advocates – the South Chicago-based Claretian Associates and Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), the Chicago affiliate of one of the nation’s pre-eminent housing preservation organizations.
The $29 million renovated building is now home to the 40,000 square foot Salud Center operated by the Claretian Associates and 101 affordable senior apartments updated and improved by POAH. Upgrades to the building included modernizing apartments, replacing heating and cooling systems with energy efficient mechanicals, installation of a new roof and landscaping and repurposing of the non- residential portion of the building as the Salud community Center.
“Claretian Associates has worked tirelessly to renew the Salud Center for the South Chicago community,” said Angela Hurlock, Executive Director of the Claretian Associates. “When we were first approached about the building’s closing, many residents and community members encouraged us to do our best to ensure its long-term affordability and to restore its community center. That’s when we began to engage with POAH to create a partnership that would benefit South Chicago and our most valuable assets – our residents.”
Financial assistance for the acquisition and renovation was provided by the use of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits tax-exempt bonds and a $1 million loan from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, and a $4.65 million loan from the City of Chicago Department of Housing, as well as private financing from the Low-Income Investment Fund, CREA and R4 Capital. The funding sources ensure the affordability of the rental apartments for the next 40 years. The property is also supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development through a Section 8 rental assistance contract.
“The Salud Center’s revitalization is a great example of the wonderful collaborative efforts happening in South Chicago to bring resources to the entire community,” said Congresswoman Kelly. “Not only does the Salud Center provide affordable housing to our seniors, but it also provides recreational space for youth, resources for our growing businesses and fitness opportunities for everyone. I am so grateful to everyone who worked together to bring this project to life. The Salud Center is a space our whole community can be proud of, and I look forward to the future collaborative endeavors coming to South Chicago.”
The property’s construction was led by Skender Construction, with design by the architecture firms of Canopy Architects and Architrave.
“We’ve been proud and excited to be part of this unique partnership with the Claretian Associates,” said Bill Eager, Senior Vice President, POAH. “We were able to not only update and improve the building but to also provide the housing and support services that are all important to the community’s health and contribute to the revitalization of South Chicago.”
Claretian Associates, which for decades has provided services and advocacy for the South Chicago community, now has a place to provide year-round recreation, education, and business programs on the ground floor of the building for its residents and community members of all ages. The updated and enhanced community center features an Innovation Lab and a classroom with 30 computers and free WI-FI to connect people to educational resources.
During the celebration it was announced that the necessary resources have finally been raised to fund the renovation and eventual re-opening in 2022 of one of the community’s most treasured resources, the Salud Center’s swimming pool. The community center and pool had been closed and inoperable for more than four years until the gymnasium was restored and re-opened in late 2021.
“By ensuring long-term affordability and creating a new community center with robust recreational, educational and wellness programs, the Salud Center has become a vital asset to our community and the revitalization of South Chicago,” said 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Sadlowski Garza.
The Salud Center’s newly refurbished gymnasium offers ample room for recreation, including after- school basketball leagues and a wide range of recreational and educational programs as well as for cultural performances, receptions and special events like the one celebrating the completion of project and the holidays.
Downstairs from the gym is the community center’s new fitness center and two exercise rooms, a small business incubator and a teen drop-in space on the mezzanine level. In fact, the drop-in space was chosen by the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (I-NOMA) for their Design Build program. Teens will be able to design their own space with the help of professional architects. In nearby offices are Claretian Associates’ new headquarters and several conference rooms.
“Not having to worry again about where my friends and I are going to live and being only steps from a fun place like the community center gives me a lot to celebrate and to be thankful for this holiday season,” said Christine Bowden, a resident of the Salud.