Block Club Chicago: This old ‘L’ station is now a hub for South Side businesses thanks to a UChicago program


WASHINGTON PARK — Two years ago, Peter Gaona was selling his socially conscious clothing line out of a shipping container as one of Boxville Bronzeville’s inaugural tenants. Now, the ReformedSchool founder and CEO is one of three inaugural tenants leasing space at L1, a retail space from University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life initiative.

L1, 319 E. Garfield Blvd., is part of the university’s Business Accelerator Program, which offers training and support to creative entrepreneurs. Launched in 2020, the program offers selected participants a 20-month fellowship in which they receive discounted rental space and mentoring. Three fellows were selected from 65 applicants.

Gaona and his fellow tenants — Andrea Polk of Solo Noir and Zen Soul Apothecary, and Hemp Heals Body Shop owner Tiffany Joi — moved into L1 this fall and will spend the year building their respective businesses in the building, a 700-square-foot former Green Line station and the city’s first “L” station built in 1892. Their residencies conclude after the 2022 holiday season.

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