Lennox Jackson nears finish line on Washington Park culinary incubator

City selling land for $2 to winner of Invest South/West bid

Urban Equities' Lennox G. Jackson and 5021 South Wabash Avenue (Getty, City of Chicago, Urban Equities)
Urban Equities' Lennox G. Jackson and 5021 South Wabash Avenue (Getty, City of Chicago, Urban Equities)

For less than the price of a cup of coffee, Lennox Jackson wants to help.

The developer is closing in on a $2 real estate deal that will forge a new career development path for Chicago’s aspiring chefs and culinary entrepreneurs.

Jackson’s firm Urban Equities Inc. won approval from the Community Development Commission to buy an old city-owned Department of Streets and Sanitation facility at 5201 South Wabash Avenue at a big discount, Urbanize reported.

While the land was appraised at $90,000, the city is selling at the low price to subsidize the Urban Equities project. It will make a 12,000-square-foot addition to the property as well as convert the existing 1,500-square-foot building into an affordable commercial kitchen space geared toward giving up-and-coming chefs and food truck owners a new place to build their businesses.

The project’s cost is about $5.3 million, and was moved forward as the winning bid for the site through Chicago’s Invest South/West initiative started by Mayor Lori Lightfoot as a vehicle to funnel real estate investment into communities on the city’s South and West sides that have traditionally been passed over for major development efforts.

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A private tasting room and 11 separate kitchens that would be leased by culinary businesses will be built as part of the effort, along with dry storage, freezer and cooler rental space.

Jackson cut his teeth in real estate negotiating cargo building leases for international airlines at airports in New York and New Jersey, as well as executing low-income housing tax credit transactions to finance housing projects, according to his Urban Equities firm’s website.

For the affordable commercial kitchen, Urban Equities is putting $265,000 into equity in the development and has secured $3.1 million in private lender financing along with $1.85 million from a Chicago Recovery grant. The city council will have to provide a final approval for the land to be transferred.

Other projects assisted by the Invest South/West initiative include a 58-unit affordable housing complex in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood by Imagine Group and Evergreen Real Estate Group that broke ground last month on vacant land, as well as the $100 million mixed-use housing project called 43 Green by Phil Beckham’s P3 Markets in Bronzeville.

— Sam Lounsberry

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