Community development at Homan Square began in 1988. Located on Chicago’s West Side in North Lawndale, the original Sears, Roebuck and Co. property was built in 1905 and included multiple buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
North Lawndale had not fared as well. It was ravished by the riots of the 60’s; unemployment skyrocketed when factories closed; crime rates were high; schools were below average; and there were few prospects for change. North Lawndale had all the characteristics of communities throughout the Rust Belt that had been under-served and neglected for decades.
Although Sears had been a responsible owner and maintained their buildings, most were empty, and the prospects for redevelopment within the existing environment were slim. Starting in 1989, developer Charlie Shaw, Sears chairman Ed Brennan and retired Sears vice president Charley Moran, developed a concept plan designed to reinvigorate the community and revitalize the neighborhood of North Lawndale.
Shaw met with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, elected officials, and community and business leaders. These meetings revealed not only deep concern over the future of the community, but clear ideas for what was needed. Community leaders expressed support for a three-pronged development strategy to include new housing, commercial development and community services, including recreational and health care facilities. Shaw knew that such a project would require a massive and long-term partnership of the public, private and community sectors. Mayor Daley showed enormous leadership by committing the City to millions of dollars in road, sewer and infrastructure improvements. Sears made significant commitments of support. With pledges of private investment, city commitment, and community support in hand, Shaw told Sears that the project was a go. The vision for Homan Square was born.