Among the Yield Chicago projects is the Rebuild Foundation’s reimagining of the former St. Laurence Catholic School, abandoned for 17 years, as an arts and business incubator. (Rebuild Foundation)

Through the new Yield Chicago program, seasoned and emerging development professionals are joining to share industry knowledge, networks, and best practices.

The third-most-populous city in the United States is often characterized as a city of neighborhoods. However, those neighborhoods are, in many cases, separated by race or ethnicity. Most of Chicago’s Black and Brown residents—nearly 60 percent of the city’s population—tend to live in the South Side and West Side neighborhoods, which have long suffered from underinvestment.

Yield Chicago, a new partnership between ULI Chicago and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago, is designed to address that underinvestment and forge ties between some of the district council’s most experienced developers and emerging developers of color working in South and West Side neighborhoods. While the developers of color have a deep understanding of their communities, all program participants are committed to building local capacity and expanding development opportunity on the South and West Sides. Yield is being funded by JPMorgan Chase and the Pritzker Traubert Foundation.

The recently announced inaugural 2020 Yield cohort includes 22 real estate professionals; 14 are seasoned developers with successful large-scale projects under their belts and eight are emerging developers managing potentially catalytic projects on the South and West Sides. This group will meet regularly over the next two years to exchange information, share best practices, and make meaningful connections.

“We hope that the Yield cohort will encourage dialogue between two parties that usually have limited visibility to each other and will lead to a virtuous circle of successful developments and continued communication,” says Yield co-chair and ULI member Hugh Williams, principal and managing broker at MK Asset Management.

“Yield is about building capacity among developers of color and building partnerships across the commercial real estate community in Chicago,” says Yield co-chair and ULI member Teri Frankiewicz, who is senior vice president and chief operating officer at Crown Community Development. “By bringing diversity of thought and talent to building resilient neighborhoods, we can build a better Chicago.” The seasoned participants can offer networking opportunities for securing capital, as well as serving as facilitators for third-party consultants.

“We’ve got people like John Bucksbaum, a longtime, very large retail mixed-use developer here in Chicago, who is so excited to be part of the program,” Frankiewicz notes. “A well-regarded name in the industry in Chicago can in itself mean a lot and help open the door.”

Participants are working on a variety of neighborhood-based commercial real estate projects. These include a cold storage facility on the West Side, several mixed-use projects, a community hub for arts and nonprofit space in a former school in the Chatham/Grand Crossing area, and a bilingual incubator café and coworking space on the Southwest Side.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to create wealth for local communities,” says Juan Saldana III, principal of P3 Markets and one of eight emerging developers in the Yield cohort. “In this new era of community development, we must be intentional about creating opportunities for Black and Brown entrepreneurs,” he says. “We want to inspire and challenge traditional real estate developers to focus equally on profits and impact.”

Yield was instrumental in introducing the cohort to the city of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development, Saldana notes. “As we start to expand our business, I hope Yield continues to allow our cohort to connect with great people from the industry who can align us to more resources. I’d love to see a lot more of that happening for Black and Brown developers,” he says.

At an event announcing the partnership this summer, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot said, “I’m very excited by this dynamic collaboration between Chicago’s nonprofit and private sectors to uplift our city’s diverse developers and empower them to make positive, impactful change across our communities. Our city’s future rests on all of us working together to marshal our shared resources toward a more inclusive, equitable, and just future.”