If you go to the grey stone building at 7240 S. Wentworth Ave. today, you’ll see people leaping, spinning, and shaking off the stress of the day at En Pointe Dance Productions. Next to the studio, you’ll see people coming out of a beauty salon, looking and feeling their best after getting a haircut or a new style. It’s hard to believe that the building was on the brink of demolition just two years ago, before being rescued by the Cook County Land Bank Authority.
The vacant, two-story building in Greater Grand Crossing had been tax delinquent for years and was slowly deteriorating. But the Land Bank stepped in and acquired the building, then sold it to Noe Favela, a local developer with a passion for bringing needed resources to communities. Favela fixed up the commercial units on the first floor and the residential units on the second floor and looked for business tenants with roots in the area.
“I wanted to help bring something good to the community,” said Favela, who grew up in Little Village and brings a community-focused approach to his property development business, V&N Properties LLC. The Land Bank works with African American, Latinx and women-owned development companies with experience turning around distressed buildings and working with business tenants who meet a community need.
In this case, Favela rented the commercial units to two African American and woman-owned small businesses—a salon and a dance studio. The studio owner, Kristen Boyd, is a lifelong dancer who went to college on a cheerleading scholarship and cheered professionally for the American Cheerleading Federation. Boyd lives in Chatham and wanted to open a dance studio nearby to serve the needs of dance professionals and students on the South Side.
“We have dance classes, and we rent out rehearsal space to touring dance companies and other arts events, like fashion shows,” Boyd said. “There’s a lot of event space options for parties, but there’s not a lot of rental options for the arts, so this is something we are providing to the arts community.”
The transformation of a vacant building into two thriving local businesses and several homes is an example of the critical mission of the Land Bank—to reduce neighborhood blight and broaden access to property.
“If the Land Bank had not stepped in, the building would have been demolished,” said Elisha Sanders, Acquisitions Specialist of the Land Bank. “Instead, we provided an avenue for a local developer to purchase and rehab the property and, in turn, he provided a beautiful commercial space for other entrepreneurs in the neighborhood. The project is an excellent example of how the Land Bank aims to be a catalyst for economic development, and we are delighted to see the building returned to productive use.”