WIN: Renovated Apartment Buildings Honor Mattie Butler

“Two affordable rental buildings in Woodlawn are being renamed in honor of the longtime neighborhood housing activist who rehabbed them in the 1990s.

“With a combined total of 102 apartments, the buildings at 6146 S. Kenwood Ave. and 6230 S. Dorchester Ave. will be rechristened the Mattie Butler Apartments at a May 26 event hosted by Preservation of Affordable Housing, their present owner.

“In the mid-1990s, the 64-unit Dorchester building was “burned out and ready for demolition,” according to archived Chicago Tribune articles, before Butler and a group she founded, Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors, or WeCan, bought it from the city for $1 and secured $2.1 million in grants and loans to rehab it into 29 studio and one-bedroom units for formerly homeless people.

“‘She made it possible for so many people to have housing,’ said Venus Scott, Butler’s daughter. Butler was not available for comment because of a health situation. ‘I’m so proud of what she did for people in Woodlawn,’ Scott said.

“Mattie Butler is the younger sister of Jerry Butler, a former Cook County commissioner. In 1995, he told the Tribune her success with community development came in part from having a personality that was ‘argumentative, determined, compassionate. I don’t recall ever having won an argument with her.’

“WeCan operated the buildings as affordable rentals for two decades before Butler approached Preservation of Affordable Housing, or Poah, a nonprofit developer that has been active in Woodlawn.

“Butler was in her 70s and ‘She said, ‘I think I’m ready to not do this anymore,’ ‘ said Bill Eager, vice president for real estate development in the Midwest for Boston-based Poah. His group bought the two buildings for about $1.5 million and in 2019 began a round of renovations that Eager said cost about $15 million.

Putting Butler’s name on the two buildings acknowledges that ‘she’s been a strong advocate for affordable housing and making sure that people in Woodlawn, particularly low-income people, have a place going forward.’

“‘She’s an icon of affordable housing,’ said Felicia Dawson, vice president of strategic partnerships at Poah.”

Read the full story at Crain’s Chicago Business

Woodlawn apartments to be named for housing activist who saved them; Mattie Butler, who rescued a pair of buildings from decay and possible demolition in the 1990s to create affordable housing, will be honored with their rechristening, Dennis Rodkin, Crain’s Chicago Business, 5/25/22


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