Three new libraries headed to the South and West sides

Three new libraries are coming to Humboldt Park, Back of the Yards and Woodlawn.

The libraries in Back of the Yards and Humboldt Park will include residential and commercial spaces as a part of the city’s Invest South/West initiative. The Chicago Public Library will use $18 million in capital bonds to fund a new library branch in Woodlawn, city officials said Friday.

"These new facilities will provide crucial resources and support to our residents, helping to strengthen our communities and promote education and lifelong learning," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in announcing the plans.

The new library in Back of the Yards is replacing the library that’s been at the Back of the Yards College Prep high school campus since the school opened in 2013.

The development will also include affordable housing units, a health care center, a performing arts center, spaces for the nonprofits Chicago Commons and Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, and headquarters for the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council.

"We’re over the moon happy with this because this is going to be the perfect addition to our mixed-use development," said Craig Chico, CEO of the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council. "This is long overdue for the community."

The branch will be more centrally located in the neighborhood at 4630 S. Ashland Ave., which will be key to making it easier for residents to access the library, Chico said. Also, the high school has long wanted to have its own library for students.

"This library is going to serve the Back of the Yards, and that means really serving a multi-racial community," Chico said. "The library is going to be gorgeous, it’s going to compete with any library in the city."

The 16,000-square-foot library space will have a separate entrance and below-ground parking. The goal is to break ground on the project by early 2024 and have the library open to the public by late spring 2025, Chico said.


Funding for the Back of the Yards library primarily comes from a $15 million state grant obtained by state Rep. Theresa Mah in 2020. That funding wouldn’t have happened without neighborhood moms pushing for a standalone library, Chico said.

In a statement, Mah said, "This new CPL branch is the result of years of advocacy and discussion and coordination across multiple levels of local government."

The Humboldt Park site is a part of the Team Pioneros project, a $55.3 million project to redevelop the vacant Pioneer Bank building at the northwest corner of North Avenue and Pulaski Road.

In addition to the 16,000-square-foot public library space, the facility will include 75 affordable housing units, a Latino cultural center, office space for the lead architect JGMA and offices for Humboldt Park Family Health.

"Mayor Lightfoot’s invest South/West initiative responds to the needs of our community that we have been waiting for — for a long, long time," Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said in the release.

José López, the executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center, said the library is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

"The opening of a new library at the Pioneros development will be an amazing addition to our collective growth as a community; particularly as we develop the Puerto Rican collection, which will add new dimensions to the historical presence and persistence of Puerto Ricans in Humboldt Park and in the city of Chicago," López said in the statement.

Each new facility will provide early childhood learning spaces and programs, homework help through the Teacher in the Library program, computer classes, book clubs and literacy coaching for adults and seniors.

The mixed-use spaces are an ongoing partnership between the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Housing Authority to combine housing and libraries.

In 2018, then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel broke ground on three neighborhood libraries with affordable housing units — the Roosevelt Library and Taylor Apartments in Little Italy, Independence Apartments and Independence Library in Irving Park and the Northtown Apartments and Northtown Branch Library in West Ridge.