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Nichols Tower Press Release

Original Sears Tower in North Lawndale Renamed John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Tower and Redeveloped as Community Resource Hub

Chicago – Capping nearly three decades of redevelopment work in North Lawndale, the original Sears, Roebuck and Co. Tower will be reopened as a community hub for arts education, workforce development, economic enterprise and community revitalization. Newly christened the John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols Tower, it will become home to a collaboration of eight not-for-profit organizations.

The Nichols Tower once anchored the Sears, Roebuck and Co. mail-order warehouse and is on the National Register of Historic Places. After extensive renovation, it will now house community programs from the following community and city-wide organizations:

  • Free Spirit Media;
  • Lawndale Business Renaissance Association;
  • Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago;
  • North Lawndale Employment Network;
  • The School of the Art Institute of Chicago;
  • The Foundation for Homan Square;
  • Turning the Page; and
  • UCAN

The Tower is the culmination of a decades-long revitalization of Homan Square that includes the development of health care, day care, and recreation and health education programs as well as affordable housing and preschool through high school education. The Homan Square Campus includes the Homan Square Community Center, Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center, YMCA Child Development Center, Holy Family School and nearly 400 hundred units of affordable housing. It is touted as a national model for community development, sustainable design and historic preservation.

“We are thrilled that such a diverse and talented group of organizations are committing to the Nichols Tower and to the vision of Homan Square,” said Kristin Dean, President, Foundation for Homan Square. “Our goal from day one has been to transform this property into an asset for all residents of North Lawndale and the surrounding communities. Completing the Nichols Tower is the capstone of that effort.”

Nichols Tower tenants will offer a wide range of community services including: art courses and workshops; artist in residency programs; job readiness and skills training classes; training in community journalism and professional level media skills for youth and adults; youth leadership training and mentoring for at-risk community youth; support services for area youth and families who have experienced trauma; literacy-based child mentoring activities and summer learning programs; new homeowner education, fixed-rate mortgage lending and foreclosure prevention services; and new businesses recruitment and retention.

“The Nichols Towers will increase the collective impact of our individual programs by bringing us together under one roof where collaboration can flourish,” said Brenda Palms Barber, Executive Director of the North Lawndale Employment Network. “We are pursuing an agenda of equity, where all people have the ability and right to earn an income and care for their families, experience the arts, grow as individuals, and feel hopeful about the future. The Nichols Tower will offer hope and be a beacon of opportunity on the West Side of Chicago.”

The Nichols Tower was renamed after John D. and Alexandra C. Nichols. The Nichols are longtime benefactors of Homan Square and were friends with Charles H. Shaw, the real estate developer who began the redevelopment process. After Shaw’s untimely passing in 2006, John Nichols actively intervened to ensure Shaw’s legacy and the completion of Homan Square redevelopment projects.


NLEN Expansion and Renovation Update

Dear program participants and friends,

We are on the move! We are excited to announce that in October, the North Lawndale Employment Network will be expanding to a second location to increase our capacity to serve more people and do more for our community.

Our Resource Room is currently closed until further notice. Please excuse the interruption in services while we beautify our facility. To access computer, fax machines, or internet during this time, please visit one of the following locations:

  • Legler Library – 116 South Pulaski Road
  • Daley Libery – 733 North Kedzie Ave
  • Douglass Library – 3353 West 13th St

We are in the process of renovating our current location at 3726 W. Flournoy St., which will continue to be home to all of our workforce training and certification programs and has been our steadfast base of operations for the past ten years. Our Flournoy location will house our flagship and nationally recognized U-Turn Permitted job readiness program; Moving Forward, our diesel mechanic customized skills training program; one-on-one job coaching; and our award-winning social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, LLC., which will have greater production space for our raw beelove ™ honey and skin care products.

The Nichols Tower, located at 906 S. Homan, will be home to our Financial Opportunity Center (formerly known as the Center for Working Families), where we offer financial coaching, credit building, budget planning, access to banking products, computer classes designed for beginners and for those with more advanced skills, and LIHEAP and other income supports.  Our executive and administrative offices will also be relocating to the Nichols Tower.

Thank you for your patience with us during this exciting transitional period over the next 30 days. We promise that once the dust settles, you will be pleased with our new and upgraded locations and our improved services. During this transition, it will be best to reach us by email, but you are welcome to leave a message at (773)-638-1825. We will be picking up messages every day!

Staff and Board of Directors

North Lawndale Employment Network


North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council Community Planning Kick-Off


Chicago Gets a Raise

From the City of Chicago:

In December 2014, the City of Chicago City Council passed Mayor Emanuel’s ordinance to raise the minimum wage for all Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019. The ordinance raises the minimum wage in steps, beginning with an increase to a $10 per hour minimum wage on July 1, 2015. The minimum wage increases to $10.50 in 2016, $11 in 2017, $12 in 2018, and $13 in 2019. Over five years, it will increase the earnings for approximately 410,000 Chicago workers, inject $860 million into the local economy, and lift 70,000 workers out of poverty.

As a city, we must all continue to do our part to ensure that workers understand their rights and business owners understand their responsibilities in implementing this important law so that every hard working resident in the city of Chicago has a chance to succeed.

The ordinance requires all employers to pay the new minimum wage of $10 per hour for all employees beginning July 1st, subject to certain limitations.  All businesses operating within Chicago and/or employing persons working within Chicago are required to comply.  In addition, employers are required to post the attached Notice to Employers and Employees in each place of business beginning July 1st and include the Notice in each employee’s first paycheck following the July 1st implementation date.

The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, The Illinois Department of Labor and the Federal Department of Labor will co-host a workshop on the increase in the city’s minimum wage on Wednesday, July 8th from 3:00PM to 4:30PM at City Hall, 121 North LaSalle Street, Room 805.  For additional information that was revised on June 30, 2015, please contact 311 or visit the City of Chicago Minimum Wage website at

For complaints, call: 311

For additional information:

NLEN and Moving Forward Featured by JPMorgan Chase

North Lawndale Employment Network and our Moving Forward program were recently featured in JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s “Growing Skills for a Growing Chicago” report. The report outlines key needs and recommendations in strengthening middle-skills workforce and equipping Chicago residents to meet employer needs.  As part of JPMorgan Chase’s $250 million investment in workforce development systems, the report identifies key employment pathways in the Healthcare and Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics sectors.

Click here to read the full report.