Philanthropist and Sears, Roebuck & Co. president Julius Rosenwald developed the massive 454-unit Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments as much-needed housing for African-American families in Chicago in 1929. Nicknamed the Rosenwald, the Bronzeville community was home to such luminaries as singer Nat King Cole, Olympian Jesse Owens, boxer Joe Louis, and musician Quincy Jones.
The Rosenwald declined during the last half of the 20th century. Sold to the Chicago Department of Urban Renewal in 1973 and then transferred to the Chicago Housing Authority, it closed in 2000 and sat vacant for over a decade.
Community residents, led by Bronzeville activist Bobbie Johnson, advocated for the property’s redevelopment, which finally came about through a joint-venture partnership between five developers.
To return the development to its heyday, the principals of Iceberg Development, Goel Investments, RCAP, Lightengale Group, and Roos Enterprises embarked on a complete rehab with 225 units of affordable housing for families and seniors 55 and older, 14 market-rate units, as well as the addition of office and retail space for the community.
“It was our goal to transform the Rosenwald to its former status as the beacon of opportunity and success,” says Jim Bergman, owner of Iceberg Development.
The entire main apartment building was retained as well as the circa 1905 three-flat buildings at the northeast corner of the block. The interior of the main building was reconfigured to connect the 29 separate walk-ups with elevators and corridors, and the three-flat interiors were retained and restored. Over 2,500 new windows were installed.
Renamed Rosenwald Courts, the development was fully occupied at the end of February. The mixed-income development provides 120 units at 50% area median income (AMI), 105 units at 60% AMI, and 14 unrestricted units. A privately run daycare is in the building, and leasing recently started on the retail space, which will include a grocery store and a coffee shop.
The $134 million development received significant support from the city of Chicago and Chicago Housing Authority, in addition to 4% low-income housing and historic tax credits. The Richman Group Affordable Housing Corp. provided the tax credit equity.