Skip to main content

The Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project Award

Rosenwald Courts

After it was built in 1929, the former Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments provided quality affordable housing to black working families and individuals in need for more than half a century. The apartment complex, which residents called “The Rosenwald” for its developer, Julius Rosenwald, then president of Sears Co., was once home to Joe Louis, Nat “King” Cole and other luminaries who had moved to Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood during the “Great Migration.”

But by the 1960s, the building and the surrounding neighborhood began to fall into disrepair. Not long after being designated a National Historic Landmark, a gas leak sped the downward spiral of the apartment building and to adjacent retail businesses, leaving the iconic property abandoned since 1999.

In 2007, when historic preservation groups recognized the Rosenwald Apartments as one of Chicago’s most endangered buildings, the City of Chicago and the Urban Land Institute stepped in, saving it from demolition and kick-starting the revitalization of the block between 46th and 47th, at Wabash and Michigan. Before it could reclaim its landmark status a development team had to address several formidable challenges. They included reducing density (by almost a half-million square feet), historic restoration of the storefronts and the main building’s original terra cotta, making up-grades and improvements to structural deficiencies, and securing project financing.

Thanks to a dynamic partnership between five entities whose expertise in historic restoration and ability to secure innovative funding from at least six different sources, there are now 239 new affordable, one- and two-bedroom apartments in what is now call Rosenwald Courts. The property features a two-acre professionally landscaped interior courtyard and more than 40,000 square feet of space for new offices, as well as new stores and other neighborhood amenities that created more than 40 permanent jobs.

“Rosenwald Courts demonstrates what can be accomplished when developers, agencies, community leaders and residents work together to preserve our cultural history and build stronger communities for present and future generations,” said Jim Bergman, Partner, Rosenwald Courts Developer.