What should be done with Bronzeville’s Rosenwald Apartments?

The massive Rosenwald Apartments building at 47th and Michigan in the Grand Boulevard area of Bronzeville was shuttered a dozen years ago. According to local residents and business managers, it had become a gang-ridden problem zone. A business manager I spoke with told me he’d leave the area, after decades there, if the project reopened – on the theory that it would quickly degenerate into what it had been when an off-duty Cook County Sheriff was gunned while working security at the building.

Plans for the redevelopment of the Rosenwald took advanced recently when Chicago’s Community Development Commission voted to recommend that it receive up to $25 million in tax-increment financing. The proposal contemplates 331 units of low-income and seniors apartments, with a small number of market-rate units.

A group of neighbors who live near the building have organized Rosenwald for All to work toward what they view as a more imaginative and viable redevelopment than what’s been proposed. Among their concerns is the lack of retail and service infrastructure in the immediate area to support the new residents. They’re also questioning the wisdom of devoting public funds to a project that would cost (at current estimates) well over $300,000 per unit.

In the video you’ll meet some of the members of Rosenwald for All, walk the neighborhood with them, and hear their concerns and their alternative vision for a more viable use of the property.

For more information, read the statement (pdf) the group submitted to the Community Development Commission prior to its vote.

The photo below, looking along 47th St toward the Rosenwald, helps answer the question of whether this is the right environment for seniors and family housing.

The only value I could see in the 5-story building was in salvaging the brick during a teardown.


  • Jake 7 years

    That last sentence is an absolute abomination. If you think this neighborhood needs a building to be torn down in order to salvage its brick for use in an upscale project elsewhere in the city, then you need to reassess whose interests you really are advocating on behalf of. That image does not help answer any questions, it only paints the neighborhood as beyond hope. If you were to look from the other direction, you’d see a commercial strip leading to a CTA station to the east. Contribute to the betterment of the city, not the belittling of a neighborhood. The neighborhood group at least is working with this in mind.

  • Jake,

    The image is an accurate representation of part of the context of any redevelopment of this building. It can’t be ignored or wished away.

    If you were to watch the video, you’d know that I not only saw the commercial strip to the east but discussed it with the residents. And then I walked it on my own and talked to some of the people and business managers along the way – some of whom would like to see the building torn down.

    Suggesting that I’m “belittling” this neighborhood is a radical misreading of my statement and my views.

    Given the physical condition of the building, the cost in public funds of restoring it, and the lack of adequate neighborhood facilities, I stand by the statement that it should be a teardown. That position is not an absolute abomination. It’s legitimate, and it’s defensible.

    It’s obvious that the residents I spoke with have a different vision, and we’re each entitled to our views. If you weren’t so busy attacking a straw man you’d realize that my sole purpose in spending a good part of a Saturday in the neighborhood was to help these residents promote their views. Did I fail to do that?

  • IrishPirate 7 years


    you bring out the best in people. It’s truly a gift.

    The idea of spending upwards of $500,000 of taxpayer money per unit to renovate this building is nutz.

    Unfortunately, TIF’s in Chicago have become a way for politicians to get campaign contributions and the clouted to make a ridiculous profit.

    Joe Zekas is correct. The building should be torn down and the land under it ceremonially “salted” to prevent demons or TIF funded developers from ever taking root.

  • IP,

    There may be less land under the building than you think.

    A guy who’s run a business there for decades told me that the gangs had built tunnels between the Rosenwald and the Taylor Homes. Probably urban legend. Geraldo should check it out.

    • SheridanB 7 years

      That would be cool to know, but I think it’s an urban legend (unless there are steam tunnels, which is totally plausible).

  • carmelcutie 6 years

    Ha! They actually think they will be able to get market rate tenants in a lowincome housing project, in a shady rundown area of the city. This building will be another defacto housing project which this area doen’ t need . How is this area ever suppose to ever back on its feet with this kind of backwards and incompetant planning? Dowell needs to go she has no leadership or vision for this area.

    More high density low income housing will only perpetuate the same pathology that led to the demolishing of the projects in the first place.

  • carmelcutie 6 years

    This city should not throw money at an area that won’t change until there is gentrification. There is a reason no one in the private sector will buy and redevelop it.

    Its a waste of tax payer money the area already has enough affordable and lowincome housing. Dowell is the Schiller(ex- alderperson of uptown) of the south side.