Art and public housing redevelopment are being showcased in Chicago’s Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood. 

Brinshore Development and Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit founded by artist and planner Theaster Gates that focuses on culturally driven redevelopment in undersourced communities, have partnered to create Dorchester Art+Housing Collaborative, the first arts-focused, mixed-income public housing redevelopment in the nation.

The partners transformed an abandoned, 36-unit public housing development into 32 mixed-income rental units and a new arts center. Twelve public housing units are reserved for families at 50% of the area median income (AMI), while 11 units are set aside for households earning no more than 60% of the AMI. The remainder are market rate, with a preference for artists. About half of the units have been leased to artists, who have agreed to volunteer a minimum of five hours per week to provide community service to the project.

Volunteer artists from the development and local arts organizations are providing programming, including dance classes by the world-renowned Joffrey Ballet, art workshops, and music lessons, to the residents and surrounding community at the art center.

“Seven days a week, the art center has activities. It’s doing what it sought out to do, and it’s become a real anchor for the neighborhood,” says Peter Levavi, senior vice president at Brinshore.

The art center, a glass-and-steel, two-story building in the center of the development, also is a statement piece for the neighborhood.

“The last thing you usually see in a neighborhood like this is an open structure. Everyone wants bars and fencing,” says Levavi. “And here, to see this open, well-lit, upscale, beautiful art center in the community really opens things up and changes your ideas of what this place could be about.”

The $11.8 million development, which celebrated its grand opening in November, was financed primarily with low-income housing tax credits and Chicago Housing Authority capital funds.