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.

A New Organization

A new community and economic development organization that supports work across Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore is needed to connect the determination and skills of local residents and organizations and fill current gaps.

Earlier this year, 1,500 people across these three neighborhoods were engaged during a series of 16 community meetings to provide their input into the design of the organization. Based on the feedback during those meetings, the organization will build the capacity of current organizations working in these communities and involve residents by taking on a mix of the following priorities:

  • Building and strengthening commercial corridors
  • Bolstering business and nonprofit incubation, development and recruitment
  • Cross-coordinating workforce development efforts
  • Supporting an inclusive housing strategy

Visit to provide provide your input about the priorities for community and economic development on the South Side.

The Board of Directors

The Board is composed of strong representation from the three communities of Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore, as well as the South Side more broadly. The full founding Board includes:

Arne Duncan, co-chair
Sherman Wright, co-chair
Byron Brazier
Naomi Davis
Liz Gardner
Stephanie Green
Jacky Grimshaw
Joel Hamernick
Calvin Holmes
Jesse Knox III
Richard Tolliver
Charise Williams
Charles Young
Brant Ahrens
Torrey Barrett
Phaedra Leslie
Terry Mazany
Donald McGruder
Raul Raymundo
Tim Schwertfeger
Susan Sher
Michael Strautmanis
Hubert Thompson
David Reifman, ex-officio
Andrea Zopp, ex-officio


Next Steps

The Board will lead the transition to become an independent organization. It will advance fundraising, the creation of a business plan and operating model for the organization, the hiring of full-time staff, and ongoing community engagement and outreach activities. Additional philanthropic and corporate partners are being sought to support the creation of this innovative community and economic development organization.

For questions, please email