The Opportunity

Chicago’s South Side has an enduring history, a culturally rich and diverse population, tremendous human and physical assets, and immense promise. Several new development projects, in particular the creation of the Obama Presidential Center—currently projected to open in Jackson Park in 2021—present an unprecedented opportunity to put these assets to work to spur new and impactful investments in the local community. Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore can best maximize the impact by working together to ensure investment benefits residents, businesses and current organizations across all three neighborhoods, rather than each community approaching the project on their own. As such, a new, centralized approach, and corresponding support is needed to help local groups capitalize on the urgency and energy of this moment.

The Need

A new community and economic development organization, that will support work across Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore, is needed to connect the determination and skills of local residents and organizations. Stated priorities that have been elevated from research for consideration, further planning, and prioritization include:

  • Build and strengthen commercial corridors
  • Support business and non-profit incubation, development and recruitment
  • Coordinate workforce development
  • Implement an inclusive housing strategy

What do you think is the greatest need? Please go to to provide input on your priorities for community and economic development on the South Side.

The Team

Selection of a board with community representation to lead this process is currently underway. The board application period closed Friday, May 5th.

Following a review of all applications, selected candidates will be invited to interview. Candidates who have provided an email address will receive notification of their status at the conclusion of the review process.

The interview processes will be conducted by Forefront, an independent, third party nonprofit organization. As the nation’s only statewide membership association for nonprofits, grant makers, public agencies, advisors and allies serving Illinois, Forefront brings extensive expertise in nonprofit development and provides a range of support in board development, nonprofit capacity building and fundraising. Following completion of the interview process, Forefront will provide planning team a prioritized list of finalists.

The team will select and announce the new members in summer.

Next Steps

Community input and feedback continues to be gathered through a series of meetings. To date, hundreds of community members have been engaged through focus groups and large town hall meetings.

Additional philanthropic and corporate partners are being sought to support the creation of an innovative community and economic development organization, with a priority being to secure support for the creation of a business plan and operating model, the hiring of an executive director, and ongoing community engagement and outreach activities.

For questions, please email