North Lawndale Employment Network

Photo by Tom Harris

In December 2020, CDF provided $8 million in NMTC allocation to NLEN Support Corporation to fund the rehabilitation of a 20,189 square foot former bank building at 1111 S. Homan Avenue. Project components include dedicated spaces for workforce development and financial skills training provided by North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), training space for NLEN and other community organizations, production space for Sweet Beginnings, LLC’s beelove® honey products, a rooftop apiary for beekeeping, a new café, a retail bank, a space for pop-up shops for local entrepreneurs, a community event space, a peace garden, and a fountain. NLEN focuses on training and job placement for low-income Chicagoans who face barriers to unemployment including a criminal record, limited educational background, and other challenges.

At full operation, NLEN will provide more than 2,000 unique individuals with a variety of services focused on workforce and financial skill development. Sweet Beginnings (an NLEN social enterprise and transitional jobs program) will use production space to train employees in the production and sales of honey and honey-based skin care. Wintrust Bank will provide the community with retail banking services and offer supplemental educational events from the project monthly. The social enterprise café will fill a void in the community by selling coffee, tea, and breakfast and lunch items. When it reaches stabilization, the project is expected to employ 68 FTEs (including 15 FTEs as part of the Sweet Beginnings transitional jobs program). Project construction is anticipated to support approximately 14 construction FTEs.

NMTC equity was provided by JPMorgan Chase.