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Alderman To Protesters: 'We Don't Need A Piece Of Paper' To Do A Community Benefits Agreement For Obama Center

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Obama Center community benefits agreements
Protesters picket the site of a new Jewel-Osco supermarket at 61st Street and Cottage Grove, calling for a binding community benefits agreement for the Obama Presidential Center.

The demand from a coalition of community groups for a binding community benefits agreement for the Obama Presidential Center continued Wednesday during a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Jewel-Osco supermarket at 61st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue in Woodlawn.

Members of Kenwood Oakland Community Organization and Southside Together Organizing for Power picketed the site with signs and bullhorns. Inside a heated tent on the site, a small number of community residents supporting the push for a benefits agreement took seats in front, quietly listening to remarks from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Willie Cochran and developers.

The site is the last parcel of undeveloped land from the former Grove Parc affordable housing projects. Preservation of Affordable Housing Chicago, which has spent the past six years redeveloping the site into a mix of market-rate, affordable and low-income housing and retail, sold the site to a joint venture of DL3 Realty and Terraco Real Estate Development and Management last year for $2M. Jewel-Osco will build the store and enter into a ground lease with DL3. The store is expected to open later this year.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and dignitaries at the groundbreaking of a Jewel-Osco supermarket in Woodlawn.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel (center) is joined by POAH Chicago Region Vice President Bill Eager (left), POAH CEO Aaron Gornstein (third from left), DL3 Realty Manager Leon Walker (center left), 25th Ward Alderman Willie Cochran (center right) and Jewel-Osco Director of Real Estate David Hene (third from right) at the groundbreaking of a Jewel-Osco in Woodlawn, March 7, 2018.

DL3 has been busy building in formerly disinvested South Side neighborhoods. DL3 Manager Leon Walker led the development of a Whole Foods at 63rd and Halsted streets in Englewood. During his remarks, Walker addressed the protesters outside the site while proclaiming Woodlawn is changing for the better.

"This site was fallow for a long time. Scream over the voices of dissent in times of change," Walker said.

Alderman Willie Cochran (25th), whose ward includes Woodlawn, addressed the push for a benefits agreement directly.

"As I look around me and see the development and what's taking place, we know how to do community benefits agreements and we don't need a piece of paper to show us how," Cochran said.

Emanuel said the redevelopment of Woodlawn will be used as a point of pride for younger residents in the community.

"The kids in Woodlawn will walk past this grocery store and say 'this is my neighborhood,'" Emanuel said.

Jewel-Osco Director of Real Estate David Hene said the company is committed to hiring employees from the store from within the Woodlawn community.