2022 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Leadership
Since 1980, Mattie Butler and the organization she founded, Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors (WECAN), has worked to address the changing needs of Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood by providing much-needed resources such as affordable housing. In the 1990s, WECAN purchased two deteriorated former 1920s apartment buildings at 6230 S. Dorchester Ave. (Eddie Mae and Alex Johnson Apartments) and 6146 S. Kenwood Ave. (Butler Lindon Apartments), renovated them and for over 20 years operated them as affordable housing developments. The two buildings are only blocks from the new Obama Presidential Center now under construction in Jackson Park, and are in the fastest gentrifying part of Woodlawn most at risk for market-rate development. For years, area residents have been concerned about the future of Woodlawn and the affordability of its housing stock for families and individuals with limited incomes.
In October 2017, Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) purchased the apartment buildings from WECAN, which were in need of repair due to years of deferred maintenance, and escalating costs. With financial assistance from partners at the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the City of Chicago and the Chicago Housing Authority, it completed a $26.8 million renovation to preserve the buildings’ historic character and the long-term affordability of their subsidized apartments. The two rehabbed buildings, renamed the Mattie Butler Apartments in May 2022, are a tribute to Mattie Butler and WECAN’s decades of stewardship and activism in Woodlawn. The renovated apartments also have served as a catalyst for other neighborhood improvements and investments that have enhanced public safety and contributed to the community’s renewal.
(Photo credit: POAH)