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CHICAGO (CBS) – A grant from the State of Illinois means new life for a part of the Back of the Yards neighborhood that has passed its glory days.

A stretch of Ashland Avenue near 46th Street was once dotted with retail palaces attracting shoppers and money. Now it’s full of boarded up windows and empty buildings.

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But as CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot reported on Tuesday, the grant should make a huge difference.

A former Aronson Furniture showroom and warehouse at 4630 S. Ashland Ave. occupies 1.25 acres – stretching half a block west to Marshfield Avenue. The goal is to have new retail and affordable housing there.

Those with businesses nearby can’t wait for this to happen.

Toni Fonseca is the owner of Ameri-Mex Insurance Agency, 4600 S. Ashland Ave. This month marks the 36th year of his business in the community.

She remembers a time when there was no looting and thriving businesses were found on every block.

“Aronson was there. Zemsky was there. Goldblatt’s, ”Fonseca said. “It looks like a ghost town. This is what it looks like – this is what I see – from those years. “

The Back of the Yards neighborhood council wants to change that.

“This grant will help us change the narrative and change the perception of the whole community,” said Craig Chico, Executive Director of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council.

The organization recently received $ 1.5 million as part of the state grant for the reconstruction of distressed communities.

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“It’s depressing in the sense that it sends the wrong message. There is no hope. There is no belief that it was worth developing and it is, ”said Chico.

Chico said the money would be used to create retail stores, a community theater and 80 to 90 affordable one to three bedroom units. Low-income housing tax credits, tax increase funding money and federal funds also support the project by almost $ 45 million.

Who is eligible for a grant for the reconstruction of distressed communities?

The new development will be built where the former Aronson showroom and furniture store is located. It has been vacant for over a decade.

“It’s what the community deserves,” Chico said. “We haven’t had a housing investment of this magnitude in our community for ages.

Dr. Ariel Chavez has treated for three generations in his practice, Chavez Medical Center at 4614 S. Ashland Ave., since 1978.

“It’s good that there is change,” said Chavez.

His doctor’s office is right next to the vacant Aronson store, and he says there are often people loitering behind the store.

“With that, it will improve this area a lot, and there will be more jobs for the community,” Chavez said.

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Demolition of the old Aronson building is expected to begin in the spring, with the goal of building commercial and affordable housing on its footprint.


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