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Pritzker Traubert Foundation announces recipient of the Chicago Prize - Official Press Release

News Release

Thursday, August 6, 2020

CONTACT:   Kimberley Rudd, 773-213-6325
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Pritzker Traubert Foundation announces recipient of the Chicago Prize

Always Growing, Auburn Gresham project to receive $10 million investment

Foundation increases its commitment to the Chicago prize teams to more than $13 million

CHICAGO— Always Growing, Auburn Gresham has been awarded the first ever Chicago Prize, a $10 million grant competition of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation that sought to invest in collaborative initiatives using physical development to spur economic activity, strengthen civic infrastructure, and improve the safety, well-being, and economic mobility of residents in the city’s South and/or West sides. 

Also, the Foundation announced an additional commitment of $2.5 million in development funds accessible to the other finalist teams from Austin, Englewood, Little Village North Lawndale and South Chicago. This brings its total investment in the Chicago Prize teams to more than $13 million since the competition launched in April 2019.

Always Growing, Auburn Gresham is a collaborative of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Urban Growers Collective and Green Era Partners, led by Carlos Nelson, Erika Allen and Jason Feldman, respectively. Their initiative was selected for the Chicago Prize because of its unique combination of proposed projects that have the potential to create long-term economic opportunity, including the creation of 300 construction and 300 permanent professional jobs, and a greenhouse space expected to grow 14,000 – 26,000 pounds of food per year, while also meeting the immediate needs of residents.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard since the inception of this project to make this dream a reality for the Auburn Gresham community,” said Nelson, who has led the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation since 2003. “The time and effort we have put into this project reflects the love we have for our community and the people who live here.”

The Always Growing, Auburn Gresham project involves two physical sites:

  • A 1920s-era, terracotta building that sits on West 79th Street near Halsted Street, and has been uninhabited for decades, will be converted into a Healthy Lifestyle Hub for the community, which Nelson has described as being a “healthcare desert.” The restored and renovated building will become a new gateway into Auburn Gresham and include on-site medical care that will serve nearly 11,000 unique patients annually, fitness and health classes, a minority-owned pharmacy and sit-down restaurant, green roof and retail and office space. Nelson’s GAGDC organization will relocate there.


  • A vacant parcel of land on 83rd Street, currently a brownfield, will be developed into a renewable energy and urban farm campus, a for-profit enterprise. It will feature an anaerobic digestor, which converts food waste into clean energy, diverting 85,000 tons of food waste from landfills annually, and will be managed by Green Era Partners. The unique structure of the initiative gives GADC a financial stake in the digestor enterprise start-up, which could potentially allow it to recoup its $3 million investment with a potential annual return profit of $500,000 that will be reinvested in the community. Urban Growers Collective will manage the urban farm, which will sell fresh produce to and offer gardening programs for residents and students. The team has plans to launch extensive community engagement and educational programming.

“Auburn Gresham’s submission is indicative of the innovative ideas and remarkable talent Chicago leaders have to offer and it represents the ideals of the Chicago Prize-- strong and dedicated local leadership, a plan with deep roots in the community, projects that respond to the needs of residents and set the stage for additional investment,” said Bryan Traubert, co-founder and trustee of the foundation.  “Perhaps most exciting of all, the Auburn Gresham team has a unique initiative structure, which gives the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation a financial stake in the digestor enterprise and allows for a share of its profits to be distributed back to the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.” 

The Chicago Prize represents the single-largest investment in the project’s total development budget of $52.8 million. In July, the City of Chicago committed $4 million of funding from the federal C.A.R.E.S. Act to the Healthy Hub as part of the City’s Invest South/West initiative.

 “Today is incredibly exciting, for me, for our city and for Auburn Gresham,” said Penny Pritzker, co-founder and trustee of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.  “When we created the Chicago Prize, it was designed to provide flexible, private capital for neighborhoods whose potential has been restrained as a result of historic and present-day disinvestment. Over the past year, I’ve learned about many projects that are ready for investment and being led by dynamic teams. This project tops the list, and the spotlight we’re shining on it today is well-earned. We’re excited that our investment in Always Growing, Auburn Gresham will leverage public investments and has the potential to unlock additional private dollars for other important projects.”

The Chicago Prize was announced on Thursday, August 6, 2020 on The pre-recorded announcement video features Traubert and Pritzker, along with Foundation President Cindy Moelis, Chicago Prize selection committee members Helene Gayle, CEO and president of the Chicago Community Trust, and Juan Salgado, president of the City Colleges of Chicago, and others. 

“Always Growing, Auburn Gresham is the kind of bold, innovative work, rooted in deep community partnerships that is needed to make our city more equitable and vibrant.” said Penny Pritzker. “Chicago is our home and we are deeply committed to doing all we can to help strengthen the economic future for more of our residents, so that all our communities thrive.  We look forward to continuing to work with both public and private partners to support South and West side leaders whose bold ideas will positively impact their communities and uplift the quality of life for everyone in Chicago.”


Foundation establishes fund for the other Finalist Teams

As a testament to the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s belief in all of the finalists, it is creating a $2.5 million fund to help advance some of the projects in development by other Chicago Prize Finalists Teams. To help attract resources from other funders, the fund will provide matching dollars, enabling each finalist to access up to a million dollars. 


“Through the Chicago Prize selection process, we hoped to learn more about the work already happening and possibly spark further collaboration and conversation about neighborhood assets.” said Cindy Moelis, president, Pritzker Traubert Foundation. “The ideas presented in more than 80 proposals to improve the well-being of Chicagoans were original and illuminating, and speak to the extraordinary talent present in all Chicago communities. In addition to this year’s incredible recipient, every Finalist, top-ranked proposal, and applicant deserves the attention and support of our great city.”


The other finalists are:


  • Creating a Solidarity Economy: Centro de Solidaridad Mi Villita; Redevelopment of a vacant two-story fire station into a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs, community meeting space and center for food purchasing from the LVEJO Urban Farm. Team members: Delta Institute and Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO)


  • Go Green on Racine: An Englewood Rising Project; Transformation of the 63rd & Racine intersection by refurbishing a two-story building into a food co-op, building a mixed-use development on three lots and repurposing a vacant school into a local recycling enterprise. Team members: Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), Teamwork Englewood, Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.), and E.G. Woode


  • Now Is the Time: Advancing North Lawndale Together; Multiple initiatives that include a new Sinai ambulatory surgical center; mixed-income housing and commercial development; affordable housing built on vacant lots; restoration of now-vacant affordable units (some earmarked for formerly incarcerated and their families), conversion of a vacant building into a hub of workforce programs, social enterprises, pop-up retail and community amenities; and redevelopment of a vacant building into housing and programming for Opportunity Youth. Team members: Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, Lawndale Christian Legal Center, New Covenant CDC, North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council, North Lawndale Employment Network, Sinai Community Institute, Sinai Health System, Under the Grid


  • The Aspire Initiative: Building A Stronger Cradle-to-Career Pipeline in Austin; Building a new early learning, health and recreation facility to serve 200 families, investing in quality curricular options at Austin College and Career Academy (ACCA), redeveloping a vacant school into a business incubator and building 60 units of affordable housing on vacant and scattered City-owned lots. Team members: Westside Health Authority, Austin Coming Together, By the Hand Club, United Way of Metropolitan Chicago, LISC Chicago, IFF, Lamar Johnson Collaborative, Purpose Built Communities, Applegate Thorne-Thomsen

  • We’re Steel Here: Working Together to Reinvigorate South Chicago; Revitalizing East 91st and 92nd Streets, from the lakefront to Commercial Avenue, through nine projects (six repurposed facilities, three new public spaces) that collectively provide affordable housing, six multi-family units, a grocery store, community performing arts facility, indoor soccer arena, outdoor play space, gym, and business incubator and workforce development café, along with streetscape improvements. Team members: Claretian Associates, Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, Special Service Area #5, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish/School, Pilgrim Baptist Church, NeighborSpace, 10th Ward Alderwoman Susan Garza

The Chicago Prize was developed by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation with support from Lever for Change, a new affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Other Chicago Prize advisors include: BCG’s Center for Illinois’ Future; Urban Institute; SB Friedman; DLA Piper; Mt Auburn Associates; IFF;  Bridgespan Group; Michael Fassnacht and FCB; Commissioner Maurice Cox and the Invest South/West team of the Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development.

The Chicago Prize launched in April 2019, and dozens of community-based teams submitted entries. Twenty entrants received top recognition by a review panel of subject-matter experts. Of those, 14 teams received a $10,000 award to recognize their collaborative work and six were named Chicago Prize finalists and each given $100,000 grants to support their ongoing project planning and preparation of final proposals for the selection committee.

About the Pritzker Traubert Foundation

Established in 2000 by Penny Pritzker and Bryan Traubert, the Pritzker Traubert Foundation has invested in people and programs that enrich the lives of Chicagoans and work to close the city’s opportunity gap. By working with innovative partners, the Foundation is focused on improving economic prosperity for low-income families in Chicago. Its resources are focused on three programmatic areas: investing in the future of Chicago’s communities; preparing for the future of work; and building the capacity of leaders and organizations focused on moving people from poverty.

Keywords: 17th Ward, 21st Ward, Always Growing, Auburn Gresham, Chicago Prize, Economic Development, Green Energy, Green Era, Urban Growers Collective, West Chatham

Posted in Auburn Gresham in the News, Business, Housing, Economic Development, Community Highlights, All news


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