BRIDG­ING THE GAP

‘Yield Chicago’ to help de­vel­op­ers of color tackle South, West Side re­vi­tal­iza­tion projects

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA, STAFF REPORTER mi­he­jirika@sun­times.com | @maud­lynei

For Tracy McKen­zie, get­ting into the in­au­gu­ral co­hort of Yield Chicago meant he got to share his dream project di­rectly with Mayor Lori Light­foot on Tues­day and get a thumbs up.

McKen­zie is one of eight lo­cal emerg­ing de­vel­op­ers of color be­ing paired with sea­soned de­vel­op­ers and given one-on-one tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance from LISC Chicago as they tackle re­vi­tal­iza­tion projects on the South and West sides un­der the new ini­tia­tive.

Yield Chicago’s mis­sion: Build ca­pac­ity among more POC de­vel­op­ers, help­ing them break into the pre­dom­i­nantly white com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try.

“The name is in­ten­tional. ‘Yield’ means to cre­ate more, be­cause our com­mu­ni­ties de­serve more in­vest­ment. And it means to move to the side to let oth­ers through, the recog­ni­tion that this in­dus­try is pri­mar­ily white, and that it needs to be more in­clu­sive and eq­ui­table,” LISC Chicago Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Meghan Harte said at a vir­tual event at­tended by Light­foot.

Through Yield Chicago, LISC (Lo­cal Ini­tia­tives Sup­port Cor­po­ra­tion) and part­ner Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute Chicago seek to bol­ster POC de­vel­op­ers to take on greater roles in the re­build­ing of Chicago’s South and West sides, a fo­cus of Light­foot’s In­vest South/West ini­tia­tive that has projects per­co­lat­ing.

Yield Chicago is be­ing funded by JPMor­gan Chase and The Pritzker Traubert Foun­da­tion.

In the works since last year, the ini­tia­tive launches as the spot­light is turned on struc­tural racism, calls for its de­con­struc­tion rip­pling across all in­dus­tries and sec­tors of so­ci­ety.

“In Chicago, our work is fo­cused on the South and West sides, in pri­mar­ily Black and Brown com­mu­ni­ties, but what is no­tice­able is the lack of Black and Brown rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the in­sti­tu­tions in­vest­ing and de­vel­op­ing in those com­mu­ni­ties,” Harte said.

“It’s not enough to call out the fact that peo­ple of color are un­der­rep­re­sented in this in­dus­try. It’s not enough to just talk about it be­ing a prob­lem and not do any­thing.”

The ini­tia­tive goes be­yond men­tor­ing, cre­at­ing a sup­port­ive think tank charged with bring­ing co­horts’ projects — like McKen­zie’s 260,000-square-foot cold-stor­age fa­cil­ity pro­posed for the West Side — to fruition. McKen­zie’s project would bring at least 105 jobs.

Co­hort pro­pos­als are neigh­bor­hood-based, com­mer­cial real es­tate projects fo­cused on re­tail, of­fice space, restau­rants, re­cre­ational fa­cil­i­ties and/or mixed-use de­vel­op­ments.

“We are here today be­cause we’re all-in,” said ULI Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Cindy McSherry, whose group sup­plies the men­tors. “Yield is all about ac­tion and cre­at­ing con­nec­tions. Our work has al­ways been about build­ing more re­silient com­mu­ni­ties — that now more than ever.”

McKen­zie has been di­rec­tor of as­set ser­vices at com­mer­cial real es­tate firm CBRE for six years. Prior to that, he spent 19 years at U.S. Eq­ui­ties Realty.

“My in­ter­est in de­vel­op­ment was sparked by watch­ing my old boss’ ca­reer at U.S. Eq­ui­ties,” he said.

“The project that we en­vi­sion is a medi­um­sized cold-stor­age fa­cil­ity. We see it pro­vid­ing three shifts of work, about 35 jobs per shift, plus some of­fice sup­port. We need 18 to 24 acres of land for that, and the three sites that we have lo­cated all fit that bill,” he told the mayor.

“I’ll make sure some­one from our eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment team reaches out to you about your project. Let’s fig­ure out how to get it done,” the mayor re­sponded.

McKen­zie spoke for his co­horts on the chal­lenges that hin­der many de­vel­op­ers of color.

“We’d like a lit­tle more par­tic­i­pa­tion than be­ing sub­con­trac­tors, but the eq­uity re­quire­ment is tough for us,” he said.

“That’s the bar­rier to de­vel­op­ment, to get­ting into the game. You’ll find peo­ple in the co­hort with fan­tas­tic ideas, in­cred­i­ble back­grounds but low eq­uity. So ways that we can bridge that gap can lead to great re­sults.”

En­sur­ing de­vel­op­ers of color have a role in re­build­ing his­tor­i­cally ne­glected com­mu­ni­ties tar­geted by the $750 mil­lion In­vest South/ West ini­tia­tive — Auburn Gre­sham, Austin, En­gle­wood, Hum­boldt Park, New City, North Lawn­dale, Quad Com­mu­ni­ties, Rose­land, South Chicago and South Shore — is a pri­or­ity, Light­foot said.

“It’s not enough for us to say to the big guys who are mostly white, ‘Hey, cut a lit­tle piece off for Black and Brown de­vel­op­ers. Give some of these folks a bit of the ta­ble scraps, maybe a lit­tle bit more than you’ve tra­di­tion­ally done.’ We’ve gotta do bet­ter,” the mayor said.

“It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant that we sup­port Black and Brown de­vel­op­ers, and we’ve got to make sure we em­power our peo­ple to be able to run these projects, get the fi­nanc­ing that they need, to demon­strate and show young peo­ple in these neigh­bor­hoods that there is a path for­ward for them. That doesn’t work if it’s some big amor­phous com­pany that doesn’t have a pres­ence in these neigh­bor­hoods. That’s not how we get it done. ”

VIA ZOOM

Mayor Lori Light­foot joined LISC Chicago and the Ur­ban Land In­sti­tute on Tues­day to un­veil “Yield Chicago,” a new ini­tia­tive aim­ing to help de­vel­op­ers of color build ca­pac­ity to be city part­ners in re­vi­tal­iz­ing the South and West Sides. (From top) Hugh Wil­liams, MK As­set Man­age­ment; Tracy McKen­zie, CBRE; Kim Adams, JPMor­gan Chase; Light­foot; Teri Frankiewic­z, Crown Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment; Meghan Harte, LISC; Cindy McSherry, ULI.

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