K Chicago rendering

TruDelta, the development firm founded by lifelong West Sider James Webb, is raising funds to build a business incubator in West Garfield Park’s long-neglected Madison/Pulaski corridor.

The business incubator would be called The K Entrepreneurship Development Hub, in reference to both its location at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Kostner Avenue and the fact that north-south streets in that part of the neighborhood tend to start with a “K.” It is planned as part of Sankofa Wellness Village, a collaboration between area stakeholders and developers that seeks to revitalize a business corridor, which has  never recovered from the 1968 turmoil which erupted in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr,’s assassination. TruDelta is working with the Project Forward business development organization. While they have currently raised enough money to cover a little more than half of the project’s projected costs, Webb said he is optimistic that they would be able to close on the site by the end of this summer and finish the project within the next 11-12 months.

Webb said he grew up in Austin and currently lives in Garfield Park. He said he founded TruDelta in 2009, and the company has been focusing on projects throughout the South and West sides of Chicago. The developer is part of one of the finalist teams for the proposed redevelopment of vacant lots around the Kedzie/Lake el station.  Webb said  they joined forces with Austin-based Citizens for a Better Community and the East Lake Management Corporation to submit a proposal to redevelop the site that includes the former West Garfield Park Aldi site at 3835 W. Madison St.

He reflected that, while West Side developers often find themselves competing against each other for development proposals – Citizens for a Better Community is on one of the other finalist teams for the Lake/Kedzie project – he holds no ill will against them, and he likes to try to collaborate with them whenever possible.

Sankofa Wellness Village is spearheaded by the Garfield Park Rite to Wellness Collaborative, which includes Rush Medical Center, the Garfield Park Community Council, New Mount Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, Erie Family Health Center, the West Side United collaborative (which itself includes Rush among its members),  Bethel New Life church and the Bobbie E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, among others.  The idea is to build amenities West Garfield Parkers would need to live longer, healthier lives. That will include a new Sankofa Village Wellness Center, an art and community development center operated by New Mount Pilgrim church and a community grocery store.

Webb emphasized his development team didn’t want to build anything that felt imposed upon the community, without consideration for how the community feels.

“We thought we can do community-focused development with people from the community, and start to create a walkable environment where families can eat, they can shop, they can play in safety,” he said.  “[We wanted it] to be some place that we feel is culturally relevant, where people from other cities would like to come to so they can get a taste of authentic Black Chicago.”

As with other business incubators, the goal is to provide office space and access to resources and equipment budding entrepreneurs would have trouble securing on their own. Webb said that in addition to office spaces, MakerSpace equipment and conference rooms, the building will include a coffee shop. Fathers Who Care, a long-time West Garfield Park community organization, will be operating its training and workforce development programs out of the building.

Having multiple entrepreneurs in one space, Webb said, would create opportunities for connection and collaboration. And once the businesses get off the ground, the hope is that they will decide to relocate within the corridor and populate vacant lots and vacant storefronts.

“What we’re seeking to do is incubate the West Side businesses, so they’re able to buy up and relocate along the Madison/Pulaski Cultural Corridor,” he said.

Webb estimated the project would cost around $5.5 million, and they have already raised about $3 million of that. The developers are applying for a variety of grants, including funding for environmentally sustainable buildings and for Equitable Transit-Orientated Development.

He said hiring local is important and that TruDelta plans to build on its existing relationships with workforce development programs.  The project website is already asking interested entrepreneurs to submit their contact information, and the development team is planning to hold business development workshops in the coming months.

Webb said he is quite eager to do his part to revitalize the Madison/Pulaski corridor.

“I think [The K] is a great opportunity for us to be able to jumpstart development on the west part of the corridor,” he said.

For more information about the project, visit www.thekchicago.com

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...