Charles H. Shaw

“Real estate development should enhance the value of property, improve the quality of the environment and strengthen the ties of community.” — Charles H. Shaw (1933-2006)


Charlie Shaw always said that the job of a developer was not to build buildings, but to create environments where people worked and lived. Homan Square was the clearest example of that guiding philosophy in his distinguished career.

Shaw was a real estate developer whose projects and leadership made a lasting impact both on Chicago’s skyline and its poorest neighborhood. A Brooklyn, New York native, Shaw came to Chicago to develop Lake Point Tower, the tallest residential development in the nation when it was completed in 1968. Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley’s encouraging remarks at the groundbreaking convinced him that Chicago was the place for him to make his mark.

His firm, The Shaw Company, grew into a successful real estate development company with a reputation for tackling difficult mixed-use projects. The Shaw Company was responsible for the $180 million Chicago Hilton and Towers restoration, which sparked neighborhood development in Chicago’s South Loop. In New York, his innovative use of air rights allowed the Museum of Modern Art to accomplish a much needed expansion while constructing the Museum Tower Condominiums.

One of his most beloved projects was the Homan Square redevelopment in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood. Shaw spearheaded a public/private/community partnership to transform the original Sears, Roebuck and Co. world headquarters into an anchor for redevelopment on the city’s far West Side. Homan Square’s comprehensive approach and successful mixed-income housing development was recognized as a national model for urban revitalization. He personally led the fund raising campaign to build the $30 million, award-winning Homan Square Community Center to serve the health, education and recreation needs of underserved local residents.

Homan Square brought together all of Charlie’s greatest strengths. His visionary leadership recognized the potential of places and project others could more easily ignore. North Lawndale had definitely been overlooked for decades. Charlie also believed in working in collaboration with residents and those directly affected by a project to create a winning result for everyone. Homan Square exemplifies that win-win approach.

More than a developer, Shaw was a committed civic and industry leader. He was a director of Harris Bancorp and Harris Trust & Savings Bank. He served as a trustee of Northwestern University, Rush University Medical Center, Illinois Institute of Technology, and as a director of The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He was also active in the Economic Club of Chicago as well as the Financial Research and Advisory Committee and the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club. Shaw furthered his commitment to revitalizing underserved communities as an active leader of the Urban Land Institute, serving for several years as President.