Cook County Land Bank Authority Keeps Flower Business Thriving in its Roseland Home
“It’s a beautiful day to buy flowers, balloons and more.” That’s the greeting you’ll likely hear for the long run when Starnella Johnson, owner of Ambassador Floral, or one of her staff members answers your call.
The future of the floral shop’s home, located at 11035 -47 S. Halsted St. in Chicago’s Roseland neighborhood, had become uncertain in 2018, as it had in times past. But all that changed when Elisha Sanders, acquisition specialist at the Cook County Land Bank Authority, approached Johnson with an offer she never imagined possible: a chance to become owner of the building that she had rented for 17 years.
“Elisha asked me if I wanted to own the building. I said ‘I couldn’t do that,’” Johnson said. “She asked me what I’d do with the building. I said I’d rebuild the community, have a garden center like they used to have with plants and fresh flowers, and start an after-school program.”
Johnson’s dreams were music to Sanders’ ears. “This was a great opportunity for the Land Bank to not only help sustain a local neighborhood business, but partner with a company committed to community development,” Sanders said. “Ambassador Floral is a business staple in the community. There aren’t any local neighborhood floral shops in the area for residents to shop, so it just made sense to keep this business in the community.”
Johnson, 70, who’s been designing floral arrangements since 1986, bought Ambassador Floral from the shop’s previous owner in 2003. However, Johnson still paid rent to the shop’s previous owner. Johnson’s rent had been steadily increasing while the building, which also houses a Jackson Hewitt agency, was becoming more dilapidated. The business’ previous owner approached the Land Bank about acquiring the property via deed in lieu of foreclosure; so the Land Bank acquired the property (a single-level storefront building with two doors and an adjacent vacant lot) in September of 2018, extinguished the building’s back property taxes and sold it to Johnson on Jan. 30. 2020 for $25,000.
“I wondered what was going to happen to my business, but never in my wildest dream did I think I’d become the owner of the building, said Johnson. “This is an aha moment for me.”
Johnson expects to receive a $165,000 Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant, which she’ll use to make structural improvements to the interior and exterior of the building. She wants to get the roof fixed, create a garden center and bring everything up to city code within a year. And she has her sight set on creating an after-school program so that she can broaden her mentoring activities with high school students. Some 25 students from Christian Fenger Academy High School students have volunteered at Johnson’s shop and learned life skills.
“I want Ambassador Floral to be just like it would be if we were on the gold coast so that we can be proud of what we have in our community,” Johnson said.
2020-09-22T10:34:32+00:00 September 21st, 2020|Stories of Impact|Comments Off on Cook County Land Bank Authority Keeps Flower Business Thriving in its Roseland Home