In 2007, Byron Brazier, Jr. moved into a vacant Pekin Cleaners plant at 48th and State Street and began to think about bringing back blues, jazz, gospel and other Bronzeville art and cultural history. Byron wanted to create something that would embody the integral role that music and the arts have always played in the fabric of Bronzeville. Since then, Byron established Heir Gallery, Inc., as the not for profit vehicle that would move Byron’s vision to reality.
HEIR Gallery has been working with the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and the master developer of the vacant Robert Taylor Homes footprint, Michaels/Brinshore (M/B); the State of Illinois (State); Alderman Pat Dowell; Senator Mattie Hunter; Representative Kenneth Duncan. HEIR Gallery’s goal was to complete a redevelopment concept plan for a portion of the Robert Taylor Homes vacant land. Many meetings have occurred over several years with the officials and agencies mentioned above to garner support for HEIR Gallery to assemble a development team and identify financial support for the concept plan.
The HEIR Gallery, proposed a catalytic project in a vacant Boys and Girls Club building currently surrounded by land formerly dedicated to public housing in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood. This location and building would have served as a vestige of change, growth and progress within Chicago’s urban core. HEIR Gallery proposed to transform the current site into a visionary LEED certified community facility dedicated to empowering inner-city youth with creative and marketable skills in the art-technology and film industries. Unfortunately, with the difficulty to obtain site control from the CHA, HEIR Gallery agreed to the demolition of the vacant Boys and Girls Club building.
In early 2013 HEIR Gallery proposed to the Department of Tourism, the State of Illinois (State) that HEIR Gallery would provide $ 360,000 in predevelopment funding to create an international tourist destination in the Bronzeville community. The State executed an agreement with Goodcity, Inc. (Goodcity) as a fiscal intermediary for HEIR Gallery to provide oversight to this ambitious tourism development concept.
Our Leadership Team
J. Byron Brazier is an artist-turned entrepreneur. In November of 2007, J. Byron founded the Heir Gallery with a dream to revitalize Bronzeville as an arts and cultural destination.
‘In the early 20th century, Bronzeville was known as the “Black Metropolis,” one of the nation’s most significant landmarks of African-American urban history. Between 1910 and 1920, during the peak of the “Great Migration, “the population of the area increased dramatically when thousands of African-Americans fled the oppression of the south and emigrated to Chicago in search of industrial jobs.
Following World War II, decades of economic disinvestment and social change, Bronzeville’s luster diminished. Businesses shut their doors and African Americans moved further south due to the elimination of restricted housing covenants. This resulted in nearly one-third of Bronzeville’s housing stock becoming vacant or abandoned.
During the 1950s and 1960s, a decision was made to replace the “slums” with several straight miles of high-rise public housing projects, managed by the Chicago Housing Authority, essentially isolating and simultaneously concentrating the poor black population in this section of the city. The largest complex was Robert Taylor Homes.
The last of the buildings at Robert Taylor Homes was demolished in 2006, with many residents relocated under the newly created federal Hope VI program. Had Chicago won its bid for the 2016 Olympics, Bronzeville would have housed the Athletes’ Village. Rehabbing of existing brownstones and new development were already progressing with the expectation of Bronzeville’s Olympic rebirth; however the Olympic bid failed in 2009, and coupled with the national recession, activity in Bronzeville came to a halt.
Because of its proximity to Lake Michigan, Downtown, the University of Chicago and IIT, and in light of its vibrant history and transit accessibility, Bronzeville has tremendous strategic importance to the city and significant potential for redevelopment. As a result, Bronzeville has been one of the most studied neighborhoods in Chicago. Today, political will and the availability of TIF dollars finally place Bronzeville on the cusp of realizing its potential.
- Bronzeville Area Residents & Commerce Council