A moment after ground was broken and tossed, smiles broke out among dignitaries celebrating PODER’s coming renovation. A computer-generated video offering a glimpse of what the new facility will look like is posted at southwestregionalpublishing.com. --Photo courtesy of Jorge Garza Norrick/JorgeTookYourPicture.com

A moment after ground was broken and tossed, smiles broke out among dignitaries celebrating PODER’s coming renovation. A computer-generated video offering a glimpse of what the new facility will look like is posted at southwestregionalpublishing.com. --Photo courtesy of Jorge Garza Norrick/JorgeTookYourPicture.com

New life for old city building

New PODER HQ to serve immigrants

By Tim Hadac

Ceremonial ground was broken on the west end of Gage Park last week to mark the coming renovation of a 94-year-old City of Chicago building and creation what is billed as Chicago’s first immigrant integration and job center.

A lineup of political and business muscle was on hand to celebrate with leaders of PODER, a 24-year-old non-profit dedicated to helping Spanish-speaking immigrants become self-reliant and successfully integrated into the larger American society.

“We’re excited about this,” PODER founder and Executive Director Daniel Loftus told the Greater Southwest News-Herald. “What we’re doing here will enable us to better serve people in Gage Park, as well as the larger area.”

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A moment after ground was broken and tossed, smiles broke out among dignitaries celebrating PODER’s coming renovation. A computer-generated video offering a glimpse of what the new facility will look like is posted at southwestregionalpublishing.com. –Photo courtesy of Jorge Garza Norrick/JorgeTookYourPicture.com

Plans call for the renovation of the two-story masonry building at 3357 W. 55th St., a one-time neighborhood headquarters of both the city Department of Streets and Sanitation and the Bureau of Electricity.

The 6,400 square-foot building and approximately 13,000 square feet of adjacent land were appraised at $270,000 but sold to PODER earlier this year for a dollar, in a deal approved by the City Council.

The $3.5 million project will create eight training rooms, administrative offices, a community room and a new, outdoor plaza for clients and neighbors.

According to city officials, the project will create approximately 100 temporary construction jobs and retain about 15 employees who will be relocated from the second floor of the Marquette Bank building at 6155 S. Pulaski. Renovation is expected to be complete by September 2022.

Dignitaries at the event included U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, City Clerk Anna Valencia and others.

Local leaders included Archer Heights resident Manny Jimenez, First Vice President and Community Reinvestment Act Officer at Marquette Bank, who said PODER’s new development will help make “economic equity, upward mobility and societal inclusion attainable for all.”

The new facility will boast free WiFi public spaces for farmers’ markets, health fairs and community celebrations. Indoor, natural light-filled spaces, in addition to English classes and job training, will provide support services from mental health, immigration to opportunities for local entrepreneurial popups.

PODER has a history of forging partnerships with other non-profits to expand the scope of services available to the community, and its new center is expected to reflect that.

To see a bief video on what the new PODER HQ will look like, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqRFDgFCXTk.

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