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Black real estate developers 'Buy Back the Block' for the future of West Woodlawn

Black real estate developers 'Buy Back the Block' for the future of West Woodlawn
Black real estate developers 'Buy Back the Block' for the future of West Woodlawn 02:20

CHICAGO (CBS) -- In West Woodlawn, where too many homes sit vacant and abandoned, five Black real estate entrepreneurs have purchased - and will redevelop 11 vacant lots.

On Tuesday, they broke ground near 63rd and Evans. CBS 2's Shardaa Gray was there.

The five Black real estate developers, Derrick Walker, Keith Lindsey, Bonita Harrison, DaJuan Robinson and Sean Jones have created a movement called "Buy Back the Block."

"One day, we actually sat down in Bonita's office at one of her properties. We were doing the numbers on how many properties each of us have done and just looked at how we looked as a whole because we always did things individually, but when we saw how we looked as a whole, it kind of opened our eyes," said DeJuan Robinson.

It's a call to action to put Black ownership into Black communities.

"I remember walking through neighborhoods with vacant lots and abandoned buildings and being scared of those buildings and we never knew what was going to happen," added Sean Jones.

Through the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which works to reduce and return vacant land and abandoned buildings back into reliable and sustainable communities, they're able to renovate the lots and put three-flat buildings into their neighborhoods.

"We know that people in the area, they want to live in the area. They just want good housing stock and they want a safe place for their children," noted Jones.

During the groundbreaking near 63rd and Evans, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said vacant lots are all over the city, in Black and Brown communities.

"They represent decades of systemic failure. Failure to prioritize our residents who've most been impacted by predatory lending and housing discrimination," Preckwinkle said.

Buy Back the Block has purchased and will redevelop 11 lots. Five of them are right here. 

"When we look at the majority of our culture, generations renters and understanding that less than 30% of us are owners in a 100% Black community and giving the gift of ownership, so now you're invested in the land, that's the greatest thing that warms my heart," said developer Bonita Harrison.

"We need our Black dollars to circulate amongst each other by creating jobs, creating wealth everything circulates like this so we can have the same things in our neighborhoods that are in other neighborhoods that we do not have," said developer Keith Lindsey.

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