CHICAGO—The Related Affordable Foundation, Related Midwest and Related Management Company today unveiled a major transformation of the Southern Hills property, including $5 million in renovations to apartments and common areas. At an event at the property joined by local officials and community groups, Related partnered with KABOOM!, a nonprofit organization focused on ending playspace inequity, to announce construction of a new kid-designed playground that will offer Southern Hills families a fun, safe place to play. This project is a reflection of the company’s dedication to building and supporting thriving communities.
“Related Midwest is proud to be one of the biggest providers of affordable housing in the Midwest and proud to bring these exciting renovations to Southern Hills,” said Curt Bailey, President of Related Midwest. “The $5 million investment in the reinvigoration of the Southern Hills property—including this fantastic new play space—demonstrates our commitment to affordable communities and the residents who call them home.”
The property, which was acquired by Related Midwest in 2019, has 29 total buildings, 28 residential buildings and one community building, providing 125 total apartments of affordable housing. Exterior site work will include new windows and siding, new roofing, repair of sidewalks and asphalt pavement, and seal-coating and striping of parking lots. Apartments are undergoing an extensive renovation including new flooring and paint, new kitchen cabinets and countertops, new appliances, new window treatments, and new unit entry door hardware and doors. The bathrooms will be painted, and flooring will be replaced along with new vanities, new medicine cabinets, new mirrors, new plumbing fixtures, new bathroom accessories, and new smoke and carbon dioxide detectors. Additionally, the majority of the existing residential forced air furnaces and condensers will be replaced, and 26 apartments will be modified as needed into accessible apartments across the site.
“Related Midwest and Related Affordable Foundation are committed to providing high-quality affordable housing and services to residents,” said Matt Finkle, President of Related Affordable. “Our top goal is to enrich the lives of residents, and this exciting new playspace and our significant investment in updated apartments at Southern Hills are a reflection of our commitment.”
The new playspace will be a collaborative effort with Southern Hills community members, including kids, who participated in a Design Day earlier this summer, where they used markers to sketch their own creative ideas for their dream playground. The playground, inspired by the children’s drawings, will replace the previous playground that was installed in 1994. This new playspace will provide families with a high-quality, safe place to play that is close to where they live and learn and will offer ways to get active, build social bonds and gather as a community.
“Related Affordable Foundation is proud to partner with KABOOM! to improve playspace equity and also provide the Southern Hills community with an incredible playspace that they co-designed, sparking joy and fostering a sense of ownership,” said Leleah James, Executive Director of Related Affordable Foundation. “We cannot wait to unveil the final playground and show the city of Decatur the tremendous result that was born from the imaginations of children at Southern Hills.”
“Playgrounds are an iconic part of childhood. They’re not only where kids collect some of their best memories, but also where crucial skills are developed that nurture their physical, mental and emotional well-being,” said Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!. “KABOOM! is thrilled to work with our partners to bring to life the new playspace at Southern Hills and ensure that kids in the neighborhood have a place designed just for them, where they can play, learn and unlock their greatest potential.”
“I am honored to support the work being done by these development partners to create greater playspace equity and to provide the families at Southern Hills in Decatur with an incredible playspace that their children co-designed,” said Representative Sue Scherer. “This playspace will enrich the lives of all who reside in the Southern Hills community.
“Our local playgrounds lay the foundation for our children to develop decision making skills, socialize and train to be the future leaders of our great state,” said State Senator Doris Turner (D-Springfield). “Projects like this help our communities come together. We must continue to look for ways to ensure our children have access to amazing places to play, stay safe and grow.”
With more than 10,000 affordable residences, Related Midwest is one of the largest developers of affordable housing in the Midwest. The company believes that design excellence should not be sacrificed when it comes to affordable housing, and Related Midwest strives to ensure that its developments set new standards for creative design adding value to the neighborhoods in which they are located.
“Everyone should have access to affordable housing, and Huntington National Bank is proud to help improve the quality of life for residents in our communities,” said Chris Sweetland, Illinois Regional President, Huntington National Bank. “We are proud to support Related Midwest, Related Affordable Foundation, and Kaboom with the rehabilitation of Southern Hills and the playspace.”
Huntington National Bank is providing an $11.3 million equity bridge loan and $14.4 million low-income housing tax credit equity investment to finance the rehabilitation of Southern Hills. Additionally, employees from Huntington Bank will volunteer to help construct the new playground.
Construction of the playspace will take place September 28 - 30. This playspace is the first for KABOOM! in Decatur, third with Related, and one of more than 17,000 KABOOM! playspaces built or improved nationwide. Related Midwest has a long-standing history of working within Illinois and the Decatur area and will provide support for the new playground through its partnership with KABOOM!, furthering its commitment to ending playspace inequity. The company has preserved and currently manages four properties in the Decatur area, which provide homes to more than 562 Decatur residents.
Tricia Van Horn