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Friend of the Neighborhoods: Hipolito (Paul) Roldan

Perhaps it was while seeing active duty in Viet Nam or earning his masters degree in urban studies that Hipolito (Paul) Roldan honed his leadership skills and understood the power of a shared vision. Whatever it was, it’s all that combined with his relentless commitment to families and neighborhoods that has made Paul one of America’s true heroes in community development.

Starting out as the first and only employee of the newly-formed Hispanic Housing Development Corporation 25 years ago, Paul has made the organization into one of the most productive and vibrant development organizations in the city. Working principally, though not exclusively in Latino neighborhoods, HHDC has been the constant variable in the redevelopment of many areas where disinvestment and ethnic and racial change could have been the harbingers of bad times. Instead, with Paul’s vision and HHDC’s determination, those neighborhoods are offering a good environment for raising families of all ethnic, racial and economic backgrounds — often in homes and apartments developed and built by HHDC.

Paul’s vision encompasses more than bricks and mortar, however. He and HHDC have been at the forefront of integrating employment, education, technology and family development into the work they do. The accomplishments, therefore, are several fold:

  • Development of nearly 1,700 units of housing for low- and moderate- income families, seniors, and homeowners
  • Development of more than 80,000 square feet of retail and office space
  • Management of more than 3,400 units of affordable housing throughout the Chicago area
  • Administration of a new program to buy, rehab and resell FHA- foreclosed homes in several Chicago neighborhoods
  • Creation of the Latino Franchise Project, to introduce budding entrepreneurs to new business opportunities and provide communities with amenities and services
  • Creation of Tropic Construction, an HHDC subsidiary and general contractor that provides opportunities for low- income people to gain access to the construction trades.

But what makes Paul even more special is less visible — his commitment to the future, best exemplified by his formation of the Teresa and Hipolito Roldan Community Development Scholarship Fund. Created by Paul from the proceeds of the MacArthur Foundation "Genius Grant" he received in 1988, the Scholarship Fund is intended to assure that there is a new generation prepared to meet tomorrow’s community development challenge.

A visionary, a determined developer, a sound businessman, and a community- builder all in one: Paul Roldan, Friend of the Neighborhoods, 2002.