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A message from the Driehaus Foundation’s Executive Director:

We are pleased to announce a $1 million dollar grant for Landmarks Illinois to expand an innovative program providing low interest loans for preservation and rehabilitation of existing buildings in Chicago neighborhoods, especially those in communities underserved by traditional financial institutions. We are proud to provide support for the Reinvestment Program Loan Fund which is the only program of its kind in Illinois that provides low-interest loans for historic preservation in under-resourced neighborhoods, including those on Chicago’s south and west sides. This grant will allow Landmarks Illinois to significantly increase the size of the loan fund and provide more and larger loans.

This is the fifth grant of $1 million dollars or more awarded by the Driehaus Foundation this year in addition to its more traditional giving. The Foundation is honoring our late founder, Richard H. Driehaus, and his extraordinary legacy of philanthropy by awarding “transformational” grants to support the causes he cared about most like Landmarks Illinois. These are the largest grants ever awarded by the Foundation in its 31-year history.

This grant supports two of Richard’s greatest passions – preservation and Chicago neighborhoods. He grew up on Chicago’s southwest side and loved vibrant, diverse, and unique city neighborhoods. Richard believed investing in the preservation of existing buildings that have an important history in a community is a smart and impactful way to improve neighborhoods everywhere both economically and spiritually.

Rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings can be challenging for many reasons, but lack of funding is often the most frequent obstacle for preservation projects. Landmarks Illinois created the loan fund to address this funding issue by providing affordable, flexible loans to aid struggling preservation projects where conventional financing is unavailable. Landmarks Illinois serves as a “patient” lender with flexible payoff terms and significantly below-market interest rates. As a revolving fund, repaid loans will replenish the fund and be redeployed for new projects.

Landmarks Illinois is tapping into its network of past and ongoing advocates and funding partners to identify projects needing financial assistance. The program also presents opportunities to leverage partnerships with other funders and encourage preservation reinvestment.

Landmarks Illinois made its first loan from the loan fund in February 2022 to the Greater Chatham Initiative (GCI) to finance storefront repairs to a historic building at 735 E. 79th St. and to support GCI in its efforts to inspire investment on the block. In addition to the low interest loan, Landmarks Illinois also provided its expertise and technical assistance to successfully navigate the preservation construction process. GCI used the building for its Artists on the 9 program, creating a work and gallery space for local artists.

The program is a great success story. There is a waiting list for the gallery space and they have created a beautiful and popular gathering spot for the neighborhood. It is a beacon in Chatham and is encouraging further development in the community. We look forward to many other future success stories now that Landmarks Illinois has the resources to expand the loan program to more Chicago neighborhoods.

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