When Robert “AJ” Patton attended the January 2022 event announcing that his company, 548 Development, had won the city’s RFP for a development at 4300 W. Roosevelt, one thing he couldn’t stop thinking about was how he planned to bring his grandmother to the future groundbreaking.
For Patton, it was a full-circle moment. After growing up in Terre Haute, Indiana, he had returned to his Chicago roots, where his grandmother still lived after retiring from a career as a union forklift driver. He had dreamed up an idea to bring renewable energy technology to communities that had long been overlooked in renewable energy progress, and now his company had landed a major deal to bring that vision to life. He was also realizing the dream of building a development in a community not too unlike the one he grew up in.
“The project at 4300 W. Roosevelt is an industrial development that will create valuable jobs when the industrial market is at its hottest point in American history,” Patton says. “In Related Midwest, we have a partner that has the resources and the commitment to get this across the finish line, and I’m honored for 548 Development to be a part of building this legacy.”
After working at an international investment fund where he witnessed a rapidly expanding market in renewable energy, Patton realized that while renewable energy was vital to the future, it would never accomplish its goals if developers focused on deploying it only in affluent communities. So he started 548 Development, named after the unit number in the public housing building where he had grown up.
“In 1999 my mother got a $400 gas bill while she was making $10 an hour, so for a whole year we had to boil water just to take a bath,” Patton says. “Communities like the one I grew up in deserve that renewable energy technology and need it. So I decided that I was going to be part of the solution and be a bridge that brings renewable energy to those communities.”
Patton says he’s excited about the opportunity to empower and uplift the North Lawndale community with the development of an industrial site and community center, in partnership with Related Midwest, as part of the city’s INVEST South/West economic development initiative. He’s also excited about being a bridge of another sort: a generational bridge between the people who came before him and the ones who come after. His young son will be at the eventual groundbreaking, alongside his grandmother.
“These buildings will be around for generations to come. My grandmother will know them, and my son will know them,” Patton says. “The significance of that is not lost on me.”