South Chicago Salud Center and Senior Housing - Preservation of Affordable Housing Inc. & Claretian Associates
The Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award (2023)
3039 East 91st Street Chicago, IL 60617
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In the heyday of the American steel industry, the South Works plant brought jobs and opportunities to the Far South Side of Chicago. After the plant shuttered, it devastated the economy of this once-booming community. Neighborhood resources fell into disrepair and some shuttered, like the local YMCA. Residents feared that the affordable senior housing—a important part of the YMCA building —would be lost. Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH), along with development partner and community-based service provider Claretian Associates, knew that the area desperately needed to preserve its affordable housing and to continue to provide recreational and community services in the building. The two organizations partnered— with Claretian stepping up to rehab and run the community space and POAH to preserve the housing. “There was a big outcry when YMCA closed its facilities,” said Bill Eager, Vice President of Real Estate Development for the Midwest Region for POAH. “People wanted to bring those amenities back to the community and make sure the affordable housing stuck around.” The preservation work was challenging from the start. Not only did they need to bring the over-100-year old structure into the 21st century, but they also had to do so without displacing seniors from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. “Residents still lived here during the rehab,” said Eager. “We were proud that we figured out a successful way to move seniors into hospitality suites so work could be done during the day, and they could go home at night.” The result is an updated building that fits residents and community members' needs alike. The apartments have modern kitchens and bathrooms; a community room; and exercise facilities. Next door, neighbors can access after-school programming, play in the basketball court, or cycle on a donated Peloton. The work continues: Claretian intends to rehab and reactivate the beloved pool in the building to train a new generation of swimmers.