Nonprofit BUILD Moves Quickly to Disrupt the Status Quo with a Bold Investment in Community Infrastructure on Chicago’s West Side April 19, 2022

In a Nutshell

What: Moving quickly to respond to violence in the community, nonprofit BUILD is constructing a new headquarters campus with 51,000 square feet of space that will greatly amplify the nonprofit’s ability to steer young people away from gang involvement and toward thriving futures – while also offering members of the community quality spaces to meet, eat, socialize, exercise, and more.
Sector: Youth Services
Location: Chicago, IL (Austin)
Size: 51,000 square feet
Cost: $21.9 million
Sources of Funding/Financing: IFF, Chicago Development Fund, LISC, Chase, Illinois state capital bill, individual donors and foundations
IFF Support: Stronger Nonprofits Initiative, feasibility study completed in 2018, $5.65 million bridge/source loan closed in February 2022, $6 million New Markets Tax Credit allocation expected to close in summer 2022
IFF Staff Lead: Brett Mueller, Senior Lender – Northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana
Owner’s Representative: Mark Tritschler
Project Manager: Prim Lawrence Group
Design: Landon Bone Baker Architects
General Contractor: UJAMAA Construction
NMTC Consultant: Shah Capital Advisors
Legal Counsel: Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen
Impact: 70 FTE jobs created; drastic expansion of BUILD’s capacity to provide holistic support to young people as the organization’s physical space grows from 11,000 square feet to 51,000 square feet, its staff expands by 30 percent, and the organization begins operating seven days per week from 6am-midnight

“If the goal is to change things in the community for the better, business as usual isn’t good enough,” says Adam Alonso. “Making bold decisions to disrupt the status quo is the only way to get there.”

Alonso, the CEO of youth services nonprofit BUILD, speaks from experience, having broken ground ahead of schedule last summer on a new headquarters campus for the organization that represents one of the boldest investments in community infrastructure in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood in years. Scheduled to open this fall, the $21.9 million campus will provide BUILD with five times more space than it had in its previous headquarters, enable the organization to increase the size of its staff by 30 percent as programs expand, and extend the organization’s operating hours to 18 hours per day, seven days per week.

Together, these changes will drastically increase BUILD’s capacity to steer young people away from gang involvement and toward thriving futures by meeting their immediate needs, supporting their pursuit of long-term goals, and breaking down systemic barriers to opportunity in communities on the West Side of Chicago served by the nonprofit. Beyond providing young people with a welcoming and supportive haven where they can access virtually any resource needed to achieve their potential, BUILD’s campus is meant to lift up the broader community by providing quality spaces for West Side residents to meet, eat, socialize, exercise, and contribute to the well-being of the neighborhood.

“Communities on the West Side and the South Side of Chicago are used to hearing about big plans, but seeing this project happen signals that something different is coming in Austin,” says Alonso. “And it absolutely, 100 percent signifies hope.”

Spread across a full city block, the new BUILD campus is being developed by renovating the organization’s former 11,000-square-foot headquarters to create a STEAM Education Center and constructing a new, 40,000-square-foot facility adjacent to it that will house the nonprofit’s offices and a variety of spaces that enhance the organization’s programming.

Communities on the West Side and the South Side of Chicago are used to hearing about big plans, but seeing this project happen signals that something different is coming in Austin.

To ensure that the campus will be as functional and impactful as possible, BUILD engaged in visioning sessions with young people, staff, and members of the community, asking them how the organization’s facilities could best meet their needs. Takeaways from these sessions informed the design of the campus, as did a community quality-of-life plan developed in 2016 by the Austin Coming Together coalition – which included BUILD and more than 500 other community stakeholders. Once completed, the campus will include:

  • A full-sized, climate-controlled gym, track, and fitness center
  • Art studios and classrooms, galleries, performance spaces, and a fully equipped recording studio
  • A makers lab, woodshop, and computing center, all of which will host new workforce development programs
  • Youth lounges and homework spaces
  • A mental health center for youth and their families
  • A public café and community garden
  • A multitude of meeting spaces available to partner organizations and community groups
  • New greenspace, play fields, and an outdoor community event space

Between its new and renovated facilities, BUILD will be able to host up to 2,000 youth at any given time, enroll 3,000 young people in programming each year, and reach as many as 8,000 youth and families annually through community events. While BUILD hopes to engage as many young people as possible through case management, mentorship, and other programming, simply having the ability to welcome more youth through its doors is an important milestone for the organization after operating for the last 10 years in a facility with a capacity of 100 people.

“Making sure that there’s room for more people to just be on the campus, where they’re safe and can let their guard down and breathe is a really big deal,” explains Kirsten Mallik, BUILD’s chief development officer. “Growing up in a community that has experienced as much disinvestment as Austin, there may literally not be any other place where they experience that feeling.”

In addition to providing BUILD with the facilities it needs to increase its impact, the project is delivering an economic boost for the community by creating jobs and helping local minority- and woman-owned companies increase their capacity. Designed by Landon Bone Baker Architects, the campus is being built by UJAMAA Construction, Chicago’s largest MBE-certified general contractor. UJAMAA, in turn, has built a diverse project team, helping contribute to one of BUILD’s major goals for the project.

“We’re striving for 50 percent combined MBE and WBE participation in the project, and we’re at 55 percent to date,” says Alonso. “Many of our consultants are also minority- or woman-owned businesses, and we’ve been intentional about ensuring that the communities we serve are represented on this project.”

Once completed, BUILD hopes to continue the cycle of wealth building in the community by opening its kitchen and café to local food and catering entrepreneurs, giving them access to the space they need to expand their businesses.

Though BUILD had long prepared for the project – first participating in the Stronger Nonprofits Initiative to increase the organization’s financial capacity and later working with IFF’s real estate team on a facility feasibility analysis – the organization’s plans took on a new sense of urgency in 2020 during a violent summer on Chicago’s West Side that underscored the need for BUILD to move more quickly to support young people in need of a lifeline.

“Kids being shot and killed every day is just not acceptable, and that summer was a defining moment for us,” says Alonso. “We were at a point where we had finished all of the predevelopment work on our new campus and were going to have to pause the process until we raised the rest of the money we needed to complete the project. Everyone we consulted told us we were crazy to consider starting construction before knowing where all of the funding and financing for the project would come from, but our board made a decision to push forward and be bold in our mission because kids were dying, and we couldn’t afford to wait.”

Our board made a decision to push forward and be bold in our mission because kids were dying, and we couldn’t afford to wait.

With that, BUILD committed to an aggressive timeline for construction, ultimately breaking ground on the new campus in August 2021 while still working to secure the rest of the capital needed to ensure that the project could be completed. In the months since then, it’s done exactly that.

Using initial proceeds from a capital campaign to fund the early stages of construction, BUILD turned to IFF for a $5.65 million bridge loan that has enabled the project to continue while the organization works toward a closing this summer for a $22 million New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) transaction that will provide the remaining capital needed for construction. In addition to the bridge loan, which will convert to a source loan for the NMTC transaction when it closes, IFF is providing a $6 million NMTC allocation for the project. Additional NMTC allocations are expected to be provided by the Chicago Development Fund, LISC, and JPMorgan Chase, with JPMorgan Chase expected to serve as the equity investor for the transaction and to provide a source loan for the deal (and, in doing so, continuing a long history of support for BUILD, as the company also funds IFF’s Stronger Nonprofits Initiative).

Key sources of funding secured through BUILD’s capital campaign include $11 million in donations from six major donors and a $5 million Illinois capital plan allocation in May 2020 facilitated by State Senators Don Harmon and Kimberly Lightford.

“It has taken many people to bring this project to fruition, including our board, elected officials, staff, members of the community, the young people we serve, and everyone who has supported the capital campaign,” says Alonso. “But if we didn’t have a partner like IFF that was willing to step up to help with a delicate financing structure that needed to get done quickly, I don’t know that we’d be here. We needed someone to believe in us and this big, bold vision in Austin.”

Read about additional nonprofit facility projects IFF has helped facilitate in Chicago