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Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project: StyleMaster, Inc. & Gateway Park, LLC, for Gateway Park

The Southwest Side fell on hard times in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Redlining and disinvestment followed demographic changes, and businesses and attractive homes in the once- thriving community gave way to boarded- up windows, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots.

Perhaps most symbolic of decline, a 63- acre tract of land, once the site of a thriving drive- in movie theater, became a place of infamy in the 1980’s as an Operation Silver Shovel site. While several alderman were convicted, the federal government took no responsibility for the ruined land, which lay idle until a fortuitous meeting between a manufacturer looking for an inner- city location and the City of Chicago and the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, which were looking for someone to redevelop the site.

Martha Williams, a partner in Gateway Inc. and chief executive officer of Stylemaster Inc., a manufacturer of injection- molded plastic storage products, and the nation’s largest manufacturing company owned by an African- American woman, had grown up in the Robert Taylor Homes and had to travel four hours every day to reach her first job in plastic manufacturing. As a result, she was committed to building her plant in the heart of the city, close to a population in need of work. She convinced her partner, William Bailes, of the wisdom of creating a new industrial park in Chicago.

In June 2000, Williams, Bales, Jim Capraro, executive director of Greater Southwest Development Corporation, and Mayor Richard M. Daley stood together at the groundbreaking. On May 16, 2001, they joined together again to cut the ceremonial ribbon at 77th St. and Columbus Ave. to inaugurate Gateway Park, a 1.5 million-square- foot industrial park developed and anchored by Stylemaster Inc. at an approximate cost of $50 million. “This is a real victory for this community and the City of Chicago,” said Jim Capraro. “So many have fought for economic and social improvements in this community for years. The struggle has been long and while the work goes on, we cannot cease, because it is days like today that we can take pride in knowing we are winning. Martha Williams and StyleMaster bring not only jobs and economic prosperity, but also a fighting spirit– a will to succeed in spite of long odds.”

Gateway Park and the new StyleMaster production, distribution and administration facility are now home to 150 new, good- paying jobs for local residents. What’s more, the revitalized property has become the catalyst for several new commercial and retail outlets a few blocks away from the site.