The Steans Family Foundation has embarked upon a place-based economic development strategy in North Lawndale designed to combat historic disinvestment and structural inequities. Long-term objectives include infrastructure revitalization, significant living-wage job creation, business attraction and development, increased quality affordable housing stock, violence prevention, the creation of a community benefit trust, and Black wealth building.

These goals align with the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s Quality of Life Plan, which calls for a diversified and innovative economy, competitive workforce, and economic and workforce development. These goals also directly address community need. The four prongs of SFF’s approach will work in concert to address a community median income that is only 50% of the city average, an unemployment rate 14 times the city average, and the low percentage of community jobs held by residents (currently less than 50%).

The Fillmore Center, An Anchor Economic Hub

The Fillmore Center is a targeted investment of jobs, businesses, and a community-based asset–designed to address North Lawndale’s low median income and high unemployment rate and to support the community along its path towards prosperity. The Fillmore Center is a five-store 169,000 square foot building located at 4100 West Fillmore Street in North Lawndale, Chicago.

The building is located within both an Enterprise Zone and an Opportunity Zone, and sits within an ecosystem of investments. The Fillmore Center neighbors four additional scattered-site developments also currently under development by the Steans Family Foundation. These sites will provide the North Lawndale community with much-needed amenity businesses while fostering Black-owned business development/expansion and job creation.

Fillmore Linen Service, A Local Jobs Creator

The first anchor business to occupy the Fillmore Center is Fillmore Linen Service, a healthcare laundry linen service that allows large-scale job creation for North Lawndale residents and a sustainable business in the community. 175+ living-wage jobs with advancing skill levels for rising incomes will be created leveraging the Chicago-based hospital market, which produces 62 million pounds of laundry annually.

The Fillmore Center’s rehab is scheduled to be completed in 2024 bringing business attraction and retention, the creation of 300+ new local jobs, and the development of an economic hub in North Lawndale. Jobs at Fillmore Linen Service, and other new businesses, will be filled through a large-scale employment campaign to recruit local residents and ensure wrap-around services for long-term job retention.

Roosevelt Road Infrastructure, Revitalizing Improvements

Historic disinvestment and underutilization have left the Roosevelt Road economic corridor in need of increased community assets, improved infrastructure, and beautification towards a thriving and safe area. The Steans Family Foundation is redesigning four scattered-site buildings in this corridor and coordinating a streetscape redesign project with community leaders and the City of Chicago (green infrastructure, protected bike lanes, and parking) along with vacant land greening and beautification, including community art installations.

Community-Controlled Benefit Trust: A Wealth-Building Asset in North Lawndale

After a completion period, the Fillmore Center will be placed into a Community Benefit Trust by the Steans Family Foundation. This will allow local residents to share in and control profits from the building. Residents will determine how profits are invested using a digital and democratic decision-making platform.

The Steans Family Foundation is deeply committed to the economic revitalization of the North Lawndale community on Chicago’s west side. SFF believes that effective revitalization can occur within the existing social, education, and economic networks that create and sustain communities. Since 1996, SFF has harnessed existing community networks to bolster education, employment, and safety–all crucial factors in sustainable economic development.