Investing in new food, new businesses and a new way of life

When Bernard Loyd looked around his Chicago neighborhood, he saw an opportunity to provide a variety of high-quality food options for his neighbors. While ethnic cuisine is a big part of the local food scene, with neighborhoods like China Town, and Greek Town, Little Italy, Little India – there was no equivalent for Black food.

The realization spurred the birth of Bronzeville Cookin’, part of Urban Juncture, inspiring Loyd to leave corporate America and launch the renewal initiative 13 years ago.

“Bronzeville Cookin’ is all about food,” Loyd said. “And food is essential to life and to community.”

The project, currently in development, is a culinary incubator celebrating the diverse cuisines, cultures, and communities of people of African descent. Four locally-owned and operated restaurants will share a sustainably-rehabilitated, turn of the century building in the heart of Chicago’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Each venue highlights a different aspect of Black cuisine, and the complex will also include a market with fresh produce as well as a rooftop farm.

Much of the financing for developments that are part of Urban Juncture comes through a partnership with Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF), who received $7 million in capital from Bank of America.

Calvin L. Holmes, CCLF president explains, “Bank of America has been a great partner for CCLF allowing us to provide the needed capital for projects like Bronzeville Cookin’. Bronzeville was once a destination for African Americans during the waves of the “Great Migration” across the first half of the last century. Since then the migration has reversed, and we hope this project can get long-term residents excited about staying in place and compel others to put down roots.”

“Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) do tremendous good in our communities by connecting capital to people who might not otherwise have access,” said Paul Lambert, Chicago market president for Bank of America.

Bank of America is the nation’s largest lender to CDFIs, like CCLF, helping them to provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit organizations operating in lower income communities. Through these CDFI partnerships, Bank of America is making more loans available and helping advance economic and social mobility for people and communities across the U.S.

“Without that capital, without the loans that we were able to get from Chicago Community Loan Fund, with the help of Bank of America, we would not be able to aggregate the levels of capital that are required to pull this project together,” said Loyd.

“Cities are more than just a downtown and tourism,” said Latrice Williams, who manages the community gardens. “Bronzeville Cookin’ has a great impact on the local community and our project happens to have a great impact on the environment as well.

Food is an important part of the plan, but Urban Juncture is revitalizing the community in several different ways – from community gardens, to a bike shop, to the restaurants, to a newly-opened co-working space and enterprise incubator.

“We have lost so much commerce in this community over the last several decades, that it now needs to be rebuilt,” said Loyd. “The incubator supports entrepreneurs opening businesses that serve the neighborhood, bringing these folks together, with everyone benefiting from this energy,” he said.

“It's given me a great community to be a part of,” said Samantha Scipio, co-manager of Bronzeville Bikes. “When I'm sharing my skills or my energy or my time, it's because I believe in myself, first off, and I believe in the people around me and their ability to grow as well.”

The new businesses have inspired residents to take pride, and invest in, their community.

6/16/2017


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