HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan visits Pullman Wheelworks Preservation Project

Community Matters Newsletter – Fall 2012

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Pullman Wheelworks resident Marie Robinson
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Pullman Wheelworks resident Marie Robinson

In April, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan visited Chicago and toured the historic Pullman Wheelworks, a newly purchased 210-unit affordable housing building on Chicago’s South Side. Mercy Housing Lakefront and National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation hosted the tour to highlight the latest preservation strategies and the partnership created to address the region’s affordable housing crisis.

Formerly part of George Pullman’s historic rail car company, Pullman Wheelworks is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is being redeveloped as part of an overall neighborhood revitalization plan, led by Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives. The overall plan includes the development of 60,000 square feet of retail space and the rehabilitation of the surrounding historic row homes through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program that is administered through the City of Chicago and Mercy Portfolio Services.

“This building has lived many lives,” said Secretary Donovan. “This is a community that saw some tough times– poor security, disrepair, and broader neighborhood blight that posed real challenges. Thanks to the partnership of so many, like Mercy Housing, and $12 million in HUD investments, we’re preserving 210 apartments for families and we’re making those apartments better with new kitchens, new accommodations for people with disabilities and new green energy-efficiency standards for these apartments.”

PULLMAN 1The tour provided Secretary Donovan with the opportunity to meet Marie Robinson, a longtime resident and head of the property’s resident association. As a mother of two children, Marie first sought affordable living at Pullman Wheelworks following a divorce that left her without economic resources. Marie moved into the building in 1981 and has seen the deterioration of the building over the years. She is looking forward to the restoration of the building and the improvements it will make to the community.

“This can only be described as another great beginning for this historical property,” said Marie. “The renovation represents something of great importance to our community. It is here where our children will grow and thrive.”

The restoration involves many whole-building upgrades and preservation of the rental support contracts which make the rents affordable to low-income families.

Mercy Housing Lakefront is leveraging over $30 million to rehabilitate and preserve Pullman Wheelworks in partnership with BMO Harris Bank, City of Chicago, Chicago Neighborhood Initiative, Community Investment Corporation, Illinois Housing Development Authority, National Housing Trust/Enterprise Preservation Corporation, The Preservation Compact, Red Mortgage Capital LLC, U.S. Bank, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Additionally, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation provided a $2 million bridge loan as part of their Preservation Compact which brings together the region’s public, private and nonprofit leaders to address the loss of affordable rental housing stock in Cook County.

Mercy Housing Lakefront’s ability to preserve the affordability of Pullman Wheelworks is possible due to the generosity of many individuals, corporations and foundations, especially: Bank of America Foundation, Citi Foundation, Fannie Mae, Helen Brach Foundation, Northern Trust Charitable Trust, Pierce & Associates, P.C., Polk Bros. Foundation, Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust, State Farm Bank, and U.S. Bancorp Foundation.

“We’re going to make this a model for the rest of the country,” said Secretary Donovan. “I look forward to coming back to cut the ribbon when the renovation is done.”