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More than $4.5 million in grants will bring new job opportunities, amenities, and services to six communities 

Grants will help redevelop underused buildings in Black and Latinx communities in Chicago and Cook County as career development centers, business incubators, co-working spaces, and other economic uses 

June 21, 2022 

(Chicago …) We Rise Together: For an Equitable & Just Recovery announced more than $4.5 million in funding for six development projects that will bring new job opportunities, amenities, and services to long-disinvested Black and Latinx communities in Chicago and Cook County that have been hard hit by the pandemic.  

We Rise Together is a coalition of public and private funders and communities accelerating equity in the Chicago region’s economic recovery. Recognizing that one new building or business alone cannot transform a neighborhood’s economy, We Rise Together layers support for three key strategies: investing in disinvested neighborhoods, strengthening Black and Latinx businesses, and increasing quality, resilient employment.  

“Black and Latinx communities need a coordinated influx of new investments, support for entrepreneurs, and new job opportunities to make up the ground lost during the pandemic,” said Gloria Castillo, director, We Rise Together. “Our latest grants support all of these goals by enabling vacant or underused buildings to be transformed into career development centers, business incubators, co-working spaces, and other uses that help more people take part in the economy.” 

Black and Latinx communities suffered more business closures during the pandemic and continue to have higher rates of unemployment. In Illinois, 27 percent of minority-owned businesses shuttered as of February 2021, according to Facebook’s 2021 Global State of Small Business Report. Unemployment rates in Illinois in the first quarter of 2022 were 3.5 percent for white residents, 5.2 percent for Latinx residents, and 12.2 percent for Black residents. 

The latest We Rise Together grants are ushering new real estate investment to communities while supporting workforce and business development. Including this round of grants, since September 2021, We Rise Together has awarded more than $23 million in total grants, including $18.9 million to 23 catalytic neighborhood anchor projects in 16 Chicago neighborhoods and two Cook County suburbs. These 23 neighborhood anchor grants have unlocked $236 million in previously stalled community projects.  

Grants in this round were awarded to the following projects: 

  • Aspire Center: The Aspire Center will be a hub for services dedicated to helping Austin residents from cradle to career. The renovation of the 87,000 sq. ft. building, formerly used as  Robert Emmett Elementary School, will create a welcoming gateway into the community as well as support residents with job training, business supports, social services, and amenities such as a bank branch and café.   
  • Englewood Connect: Englewood Connect will foster entrepreneurs in food production, create jobs, and bring needed community space to the Englewood neighborhood in a way that intentionally and strategically leverages existing investments on the corridor. 
  • Little Black Pearl: Little Black Pearl in Bronzeville is seeking to expand their successful Carver 47 Café into a sit-down restaurant that will enable them to increase their workforce training opportunities for community residents and improve and broaden their services and accessibility to the surrounding community.   
  • 4343 Ascending House: 4343 Ascending House will be an e-commerce business incubator in the south suburbs—located specifically in Matteson—that aims to encourage and support entrepreneurs of color and the burgeoning ecommerce ecosystem in the area. 
  • ReveNewCycle: A vacant building will be rehabilitated to house ReveNewCycle, a locally owned medical billing and coding company focused on supporting the success of medical providers that serve low-income Black and Latinx communities. The building will also include co-working space and a community gathering space. 
  • Star Farm Chicago Partnership: This year-round fresh market and retail bulk food store in Back of the Yards will create access to healthy, locally grown food year-round, support local farmers, hire local people for permanent, living wage jobs, and transform a troubled intersection into a vibrant community space.   

About We Rise Together 
We Rise Together: For an Equitable and Just Recovery is a coalition of corporate and philanthropic funders working with community to accelerate equity in the Chicago region’s economic recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how chronic disinvestment exacerbated health and economic risks and left communities of color uniquely vulnerable. In response, this five-year initiative, which began in 2020, is making grants, transforming business practices, and changing policies to support investment in disinvested neighborhoods, strengthen Black and Latinx businesses, and increase quality, resilient employment.

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