Parkway Gardens owner helps design and build HOOD community center in Woodlawn

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WOODLAWN – A South Side community organization run by a pastor who spent more than 100 days in a tent while raising funds to build a community center near Parkway Gardens announced that the owner of the condominium complex will help build the center.

Developer Related Midwest will donate “a wide range of services” in architecture, design and construction to Project HOOD’s 85,000-square-foot Leadership and Economic Opportunity Center project, officials said Friday.

The Woodlawn-based organization, founded by New Beginnings Church pastor Corey Brooks, estimates the value of the services at $2 million.

Brooks has been living in a tent atop shipping containers at 6615 S. King Drive since November 20 in an attempt to raise $35 million to build the community center.

“tent tournament” of the pastor had raised $10 million according to the Sun-Times on February 28, the 100th day of the campaign. Brooks initially promised to stay in the tent for 100 days, then extended his stay indefinitely.

Brooks did not respond to requests for interviews about his plans for the community center and his extended campout.

According to a promotional brochure, Project HOOD has outgrown its existing premises at New Beginnings, 6620 S. King Drive and needs to “expand our footprint so we can continue to meet the growing needs of the communities we serve.”

“Woodlawn residents deserve access to the same opportunities as those living on the North Side, including job skills development, entrepreneurship education, arts and sports programs for young people, and safe places to play,” Brooks said in a statement on Friday.

Plans for the center include a “social space” with after-school programs, Wi-Fi lounges; an incubator; an ice cream shop, burger joint, and pizzeria; room for vocational training; a multimedia laboratory; a roof garden; a performing arts center; and a health and wellness center, among other amenities.

Residents of Parkway Gardens can get free memberships in the community center. To donate to the fundraiser, click here.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Pastor Corey Brooks poses for a portrait while spending over 100 days on shipping containers near Project HOOD in Woodlawn on March 3, 2022.

Related Midwestern President Curt Bailey and Vice President Don Biernacki spent a night with Brooks during the camp, they said.

“Pastor Brooks has a deep and inspiring commitment to his vision of a place that creates opportunities for Woodlawn individuals, young people and families, and it is not possible to visit him on this rooftop and leave him unchanged,” Biernacki said.

Brooks has invited business leaders and officials to join him during his campaign on the shipping containers.

Former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagoyevich spent the night of February 17 while Rob ScheerFounder of the non-profit organization Comfort Cases and CEO of Adlai Pharmaceuticals William Stilley are among the other overnight guests of the last few months.

In 2012, Related Midwest acquired Parkway Gardens – the affordable condominium complex on King Drive at 63rd and 65th Streets, just north of New Beginnings Church. The developer had put the complex up for sale last year before take off the market shortly thereafter.

Neighborhood leaders have long questioned why violence and poor living conditions are so prevalent in a complex owned by one of Chicago’s most active developers.

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