Demolition begins for Pastor Brooks' new South Side Chicago community center

Chicago's famous "rooftop pastor" Corey Brooks came down from his rooftop Tuesday to announce a major step forward in building a community center for Woodlawn.

Demolition crews began tearing down the last big piece of property on the footprint of the proposed community center. Brooks said they still need to raise millions but are more than halfway to their ambitious goal.

"It all starts today by tearing this building down behind us," said Brooks, surrounded by dozens of supporters during a news conference marking the milestone.

It's another sign that Pastor Brooks' dream will one day become reality.


Demolition crews have begun tearing down a large brick building across the street from New Beginnings Church, clearing the site where Brooks wants to build an 89-thousand square foot community center that would have job training, classrooms, a health center, restaurants, gymnasium and an Olympic-sized pool.

Brooks says it would be transformative for troubled Woodlawn.

"We're tearing it down because we need this space to have this center, to transform lives so that we make our neighborhood everything we believe our neighborhood should be," he said.

Since November 2021, Brooks has been living and sleeping on top of a stack of box containers on the site, drawing international attention to his cause. So far, he's raised $18.5 million for the community center, which is more than half its $35 million projected cost.

Last month, Brooks received a $5 million donation from Chicago hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who's moving his company to Florida because of crime.

"We have $16.5 million to go," Brooks said. "How are we gonna get the $16.5 million? The same way we got $18.5. People from across the country and the city of Chicago."

Rev. John McEwing was one of the supporters at Tuesday’s announcement. He said the community center is critical to the future of Woodlawn.

"This is so important to our community because we have no place to go. Everybody says they want to help, but from where, from what? This is where we're gonna do it from," McEwing said.

Brooks said the next major milestone will come on October 29, when they plan to hold a groundbreaking ceremony right across the street.

"So October 29th we plan to break ground," Brooks said. "That means I have a few months to raise $16.5 million dollars. If we don't have it --- matter of fact I don't even want to talk about it if we don't have it. We plan to have it, right?" the crowd cheered.

Until then, it's back up to the roof for the "rooftop pastor."