Nine years ago, U.S. Bank Chief Financial Officer Terry Dolan looked out over a 180-acre field on Chicago’s South Side and wondered what would ever become of it. The expansive area, onetime the home of a Ryerson Steel plant, had recently come under the bank’s ownership after the acquisition of a local bank.
Last week, he stood on what had been part of that field at the opening of the U.S Bank Pullman Community Center, a 135,000-square-foot facility that is the latest result of a $110 million community investment that U.S. Bank has made in the historic Pullman neighborhood since 2009.
“I remember thinking, what is U.S. Bank going to do with this field?” said Dolan (pictured above). “We listened, is what we did. U.S. Bank and community leaders came together and started to talk about the possibilities. It’s so important to listen to those in the community, what they want to do and want to accomplish.”
As a result, U.S. Bank started a journey with the Pullman community to help achieve these possibilities. The bank helped establish Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, donating land and providing initial funding to the nonprofit community and economic development organization. Since then, CNI, under the leadership of David Doig, has partnered with U.S. Bank to help Pullman welcome major retailers, a grocery store, healthcare, workout facilities, restaurants and several plants and distribution centers – and now, the community center. In total, the effort has brought more than 1,300 new jobs to an area that had not seen job growth in decades.
“This is becoming the place to be,” Dolan said. “That’s what powering human potential is all about and why U.S. Bank is a part of it.”
Government, private business and community groups all partnered to make the community center a reality. It will serve hundreds of children with after-school tutoring, sports and other activities. Alderman Anthony Beale emphasized the center will focus on academics, too, offering free tutoring and ACT/SAT prep. “We want to create smart athletes,” he said during his remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony.
U.S. Senator Dick Durbin highlighted the importance of tax credits in bringing the community center to life. And Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel credited Alderman Beale and the business community for making it a reality. In the end, the $20 million facility only has a mortgage of $2 million thanks to the generosity of businesses and community. It will create more than 100 full and part time jobs and is touted as one of the largest community centers in the country.
As local dignitaries spoke at the grand opening, kids from the community got to test out the new indoor turf fields, hitting some baseballs, tossing footballs and kicking soccer balls. Hardwood courts offer room for basketball and volleyball, in addition to the classroom areas. Owned by Chicago Park District and Roseland Youth Center, Chicago Housing Authority residents will have priority and free access to a segment of programming. The center will also offer free transportation from Altgeld/Murray, Trumbull and Lowden Homes housing complexes.
“Our pillars are home, work and play. They intersect with what the Pullman Community Center is all about – providing safe, quality, indoor recreation facilities, tutoring and education support,” Dolan said. “We’re very excited about that and very proud to be a partner in Pullman.”
Written by Cheryl Leamon and Cassie Wagner of U.S. Bank. Photos by Jason Kaczorowski.