The Chicago Community Development Commission has approved the sale and redevelopment of the existing structure at 5021 S Wabash Avenue in Grand Boulevard. Located just north of the intersection with E 51st Street, the proposal will expand the small streets and sanitation facility into a new culinary center. Developer Urban Equities won the city’s RFP earlier this year and has teamed up with local architecture firm SmithGroup on the restoration and modern design of the new elements.
The existing 1,500-square-foot Prairie Style structure opened in the 1910s and has now become orange-rated due to its architectural significance to the surrounding area. The nearly crumbling building and its 7,000-square-foot parking lot will require extensive repairs with both being eventually sold to the developer for $1. Once the work is done, it will reopen as a new accessible, modern, and more open project called Soul City Kitchens, an 8,000-square-foot hub for food entrepreneurs near the bustling 51st Street commercial area.
Replacing nearly all of the parking lot, the new facility will hold shared commercial cooking facilities, a test kitchen, individual cooking cubicles, large storage areas with commercial coolers and freezers, as well as a new communal dining room within the restored brick building. All of the spaces will have an emphasis on daylight along with added ADA accessibility so all will have access to the new space. Urban Equities is also hoping to partner with local schools to bring kids in to learn about healthy eating habits and building businesses.
Future visitors can reach the site using bus service for CTA Routes 15 and 29 via a three-minute walk, as well as the CTA Green Line 51st station and Route 3 via a five-minute walk. The $4.6 million project will now be able to move forward to the Chicago City Council for final approvals on the land sale, zoning, and design. Once those are approved and final financing is in place it can break ground, however a formal construction timeline has yet to be revealed.