Leon Walker is on a roll. Neighborhood Housing Services Chicago awarded him its 2019 Community Impact Award for addressing food deserts. The new Jewel-Osco location he co-developed in the Woodlawn neighborhood on the South Side opened its doors on March 7. On the heels of that, the Cook County Land Bank Authority selected Walker’s firm, DL3 Realty, to co-develop the site of the old Washington Park National Bank building, just a couple blocks down the street.
His career as a developer, which nearly never happened, could serve as a template for others like him to come back to — or emerge from — systematically disinvested places like the South Side or West Side of Chicago and provide an often elusive link between longtime residents and businesses and capital for revitalization without displacement.