When Bronzeville-based media non-profit, Obsidian Collection Archives, purchased the historic Lu Palmer Mansion, in 2021, they decided to submit a proposal to rezone the building. Over a year later, plans are still up in the air.
Angela Ford bought the 133-year-old mansion with hopes of having the building landmarked by the Commission of Chicago landmarks, turning the space into a coworking and community hub along with a place to display media-focused archives from The Obsidian Collection.
The building sold for $1.25 million in May of 2021 and since then, has encountered pushback on rezoning decisions. As for the holdup, Ford places blame on Ald. Sophia King (4th) for stalling on making a decision.
The historic space, which is also known as the Hammer/Palmer Mansion, was built by architect William Wilson Clay between the years 1885 and 1888. Initially, it was designed for Justice D. Harry Hammer, but the space later became Black activist, reporter, writer, and radio talent Lutrelle ‘Lu’ F. Plamler II’s home from 1976 to 2004. Lu Plamer along with his wife Jorja and Timuel and Zenobia Black were the ones who oversaw the initial voter registration drive that elected Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington, into office in 1983.
The space has a long storied history and the OCA’s plans for the space intend to honor that. The media non-profit is proposing a $9 million renovation. They also want to rename it the Obsidian House, making it a private membership club and workspace. By creating this workspace, they hope it will create a space for creatives to experience Black history and Black journalism.
They plan to hold lectures, featured conversations, and other community-focused opportunities. It also will offer organizations and community groups the ability to have a mailing address along with additional meeting space, and more.
Zoning changes are imperative to the Obsidian House’s ability to provide an income stream that would meet the requirements of the Small Business Administration loan the organization received. The For the Obsidian House to have proposed income-generating components, they need an official business license that can be issued only with an approved zoning change.
Residents living in the area are a fan of the idea but note that concerns extend to parking and the future sale of the property. The city’s zoning code for the building stipulates that OCA is required to maintain six off-street parking spaces on the site, but they would actually request for zero parking spaces allocated, as there is no room for a parking lot on site.
Address: 3654 S King Dr. Chicago, IL 60653
[Featured photo via: Brule Laker / Flickr]