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The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award

Skilken Development Co. and Troy Enterprises for The Shops & Lofts at 47

They never gave up. Despite multiple setbacks, from the Great Recession to doubts by outsiders that the once-beating heart of Bronzeville could beat again, they kept at it for 10 years ... and got it done.

But the Shops & Lofts at 47 delivers more than a Walmart Neighborhood Market to residents weary of leaving the neighborhood for fresh food, or the 96 stylish apartments snapped up by renters from all across the city’s income spectrum. Delivered also is a new model for community-based planning and input, for public sector intervention and investment, and, apropos of this award, for private sector patience and problem-solving.

“Shops” was conceived by the Quad Communities Development Corp. as the linchpin of a broader comeback of Cottage Grove Avenue – historic Bronzeville’s commercial spine. Perhaps because they’re from Ohio, Skilken and Troy weren’t so much put off by negative local lore as they were intrigued by the vision of QCDC and its executive director Bernita Johnson-Gabriel. Besides vision, after all, their initial pitch, made at a Las Vegas retail convention, included professional market studies, a pair of community-written plans, and crucially, the full support of the mayor’s office, then-4th Ward Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and her successor Will Burns.

Turned out every bit of that support would be needed as the project expanded to cover redevelopment of other properties on the block; slowed to a crawl when the Great Recession KO’d the condo market; then roared back with The Community Builders, a savvy developer of affordable housing, taking over the residential piece and weaving their own funding sources into the public/private financing model.

“It took us a number of years,” said Skilken’s Frank Petruziello, “but now we’re showing there’s definitely potential for Cottage Grove.”