Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) announced last month that it was distributing approximately $33 million in community development grants to 26 businesses around the city as part of a plan to boost economic recovery after the damage of the pandemic. The grants are intended to revitalize commercial corridors; in theory, it could lead to $138 million in neighborhood improvements.
Among the 26 development grant recipients are 13 food-related businesses, including restaurants, bakeries, grocers, a brewer, two coffee roasters, an ice cream shop, and a producer of vegan meats and dairy products. Many of the Chicago businesses plan to improve existing facilities — the owners of Lindo Michoacan, a grocery store in Albany Park, for instance, will be investing in structural improvements to the building, while the Sugar Shack, an ice cream parlor in Little Village, and Chico’s Bakery in South Shore, will spend their grant money on renovations.
Other businesses plan to expand into new territory. Carnitas Uruapan, a longtime local favorite on 18th Street in Pilsen, received one of the larger grants, nearly $1.8 million, to fix up the art deco Concordia building on 26th Street in Little Village; there will be a new location of Carnitas Uruapan on the ground floor (its third; there’s another in Gage Park), plus a sidewalk cafe, and six to eight apartments on the upper floors. Meanwhile, 5 Rabbit Cervecería, a Latin American-inspired craft brewer in suburban Bedford Park best known for its Chinga Tu Pelo beer, will be starting up a small-batch brewery and full-service restaurant in Pilsen, and Magnífico Coffee Roasters will be opening a cafe in Avondale.
Jeffery Java, a coffee shop in South Shore across from a Metra station, will team up with beloved Roseland institution Old Fashioned Donuts to serve coffee and pastries to commuters and neighborhood residents, while Soul Veg City in Chatham will create a carry-out area for pre-packaged vegan meals.
Sputnik Coffee, a coffee roaster in Back of the Yards, also received one of the larger grants — $1.2 million — and will be using the money to move the roasting operation to bigger quarters in nearby Brighton Park, about five blocks from the current location. The new facility will also have a cafe and conference room that local community groups can use for meetings. Owner Vova Kagan and his brother Greesha were already planning to renovate the former warehouse, which had been vacant for 10 years and was slated for demolition, but the grant helped cover construction costs that had increased during the pandemic. “[The grants] make projects that wouldn’t have happened a reality,” Kagan said.
The Chicago Department of Planning and Development is led by Maurice Cox, who was appointed Commissioner of the DPD in 2019. The Brooklyn, NY native is celebrated for his experience merging architecture, design and politics through multiple public, private and elected positions, Cox is responsible for leading DPD’s economic development, planning and zoning functions while fostering community-improvement initiatives throughout the city. His primary focus is under-invested neighborhoods on the South and West sides.