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These groups build healthier neighborhoods across Chicago. To honor them, Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards go virtual tonight.

In Little Village, Enlace found a gap in health access and fought to bridge it. Austin Coming Together created a vision to attract investment to a West Side neighborhood and give its residents the opportunity to take ownership in its own transformation. The Southwest Organizing Project and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association launched a parent mentor program to boost engagement in schools.

Against the backdrop of turbulence prompted by the coronavirus, community organizations in Chicago are still striving to make life better and build healthier neighborhoods. At a time when isolation is a way of life, being part of a community may be a balm to weary psyches.

And even during a pandemic, that merits celebrating.

Tonight and Thursday, Chicago community development nonprofits and corporations will receive awards for their work across the city. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC Chicago, will livestream its Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards and the Driehaus Foundation Awards for Architectural Excellence in Community Design ceremony.

The 26th annual awards recognize achievements over the past year of community-based organizations and for-profit developers. There are awards that recognize community engagement, organizing and planning, and recognition of individuals who are demonstrating leadership.

“During this time, we are all struggling,” said Meghan Harte, executive director. “But specifically in this industry, in the work, everybody is on the ground supporting communities, and COVID-19 is just an added challenge and a stark indicator of the inequities.”

Since COVID-19 impeded the in-person celebration, which typically draws over 1,500 people from the city’s corporate community and grassroots organizations, LISC Chicago is bringing the experience online.

“We thought right now is the time to celebrate the great work that continues to go on — organizing is happening, people are working together,” Harte said. “So we thought this was an opportunity to do it in a virtual way and still recognize all that great work.”

During the virtual two-night, 45-minute celebration, LISC will feature celebrities like “Veep” actor Matt Walsh, “Chicago P.D.” actor LaRoyce Hawkins and performances by local artists Reginald Robinson, Toronzo Cannon, Open the Circle, Mykele Deville, and Young Chicago Authors.

The money earmarked for an in-person reception will instead going to local artists who are struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Harte said.

LISC Chicago will also award $75,000 in additional grants to up-and-coming community development projects, putting the cost savings back into the neighborhoods. The nonprofit community development group has not yet decided on those grant recipients, she said.

A jury of 20-30 chose the 2020 CNDA winners, who received $15,000 in cash and a plaque.

“What I think is amazing of our neighborhood partners is that they’re responding to the crisis, but at the same time they’re keeping their neighborhoods and their work moving forward,” Harte said. “They were working 100% of the time before (the pandemic), and now they’re doubling down and really putting in an effort to help people where they’re at.”

Projects like Austin Coming Together’s quality-of-life plan have a big impact because they’re community-driven, Harte said.

“Our neighborhoods in Chicago generally have always been resilient,” she noted. “Because they did that plan, they’ve been able to drive investment into Austin that wouldn’t have otherwise been there. Those are things that I think are super impactful and impressive.”

A jury of 20-30 chose the 2020 CNDA winners, who received $15,000 in cash and a plaque.

The winners are:

Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award: Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation for West Town Preservation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois Healthy Community Award: Enlace Chicago for Community Health Workers Health Equity Initiative

John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Creative Placemaking Award: El Paseo Community Garden

Outstanding For-Profit Real Estate Project Award: DL3 Realty and Terraco Real Estate for the Woodlawn Jewel-Osco (This category doesn’t receive a cash prize.)

The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Outstanding Non-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project: Accion Chicago and the Industrial Council of Nearwest Chicago for The Hatchery

The Chicago Community Trust Outstanding Community Plan Award: Austin Coming Together for the Austin Quality-of-Life Plan

The Woods Fund Chicago Power of Community Award: Southwest Organizing Project and Logan Square Neighborhood Association for the Parent Engagement Institute

Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design: John Ronan Architect LLC for Independence Library & Apartments (First place)

CIBC Norman Bobbins Emerging Leader Award: Deon Lucas

Richard M. Daley Friend of the Neighborhoods Award: Marca Bristo

The two-part virtual award show will livestream at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at

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