Both developers have applied for $5 million in assistance through the Chicago Recovery Plan development grant program, according to a joint statement they issued with Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th. The grants are partially funded by local recovery money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act passed last year.
The plans could add to a series of developments in and near Pullman along Interstate 94, where the 180-acre former Ryerson Steel plant site has been transformed in recent years into a mixed-use campus, dubbed Pullman Park. The historic-but-disinvested property now includes a Method Soap factory that opened in 2015, a pair of greenhouses from produce grower Gotham Greens and a Whole Foods distribution center and an Amazon delivery center, among other new developments.
The $20 million hotel project from Garner’s Pullman Hotel Group would be built on a vacant lot just north of a retail building that now houses a Culver’s restaurant along 111th Street.
The hotel would be meant to meet demand from visitors to the historic Pullman monument as well as the neighborhood’s other new demand drivers, said Garner, such as the events held at the Pullman Community Center that opened in 2018. Backers of the restored Pullman National Monument said last year they expected visitation to the area to jump by four or five times to as many as 300,000 people per year with the help of being affiliated with the National Park service.
“You’ve got a nice mix of factors that pointed toward the need for some lodging,” said Garner, an Englewood native and longtime communications consultant. He previously worked in city government with David Doig of Pullman Park master developer Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, who brought up the prospect of Garner developing a hotel on the property.
“There are three major highways running through the South Side and bringing in people from all around the nation, and no place for folks to stay (with a brand) that they’d recognize,” Garner said.
Yet financing the project will be a challenge. Garner said he has commitments from other equity, debt and philanthropic sources and received $100,000 from the Chicago Community Trust to help cover pre-development costs, but he is counting on the city grant to help make the project a reality.
“We’d have to look at other ways to get some help” if the grant is not awarded, Garner said. He expects the city to announce grant winners in November.
Further south, the $5 million grant would help Yellow Banana acquire a property at 130th and Eberhardt in Altgeld Gardens, where it would build a 10,000-square-foot Save A Lot location. The store would add to the six Save A Lot locations Yellow Banana is upgrading in underserved Chicago neighborhoods on the city’s South and West Sides with the help of a separate $13.5 million Chicago Recovery Plan grant.
The Altgeld Gardens Save A Lot location would help eliminate a food desert for tens of thousands of people that live nearby and “have for far too long lacked access to healthy, affordable food,” Yellow Banana Co-founder Michael Nance said in the statement.
Both projects have strong backing from Beale, who called the projects “much-needed additions to the Far South Side,” the statement said.
He added: “We know from experience that development that brings needed amenities and jobs to our communities is good for everyone and all parts of the city.”