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CHICAGO-An $11.1-million renovation project will convert a long-vacant building at 2101 S. Wabash Ave. into 57,600 sf of research and development space to be used by L’Oreal USA Products, Inc. for its Institute of Ethnic Hair and Skin Research. The institute was headed to New Jersey, says Dr. Victoria L. Holloway, but her desire to remain in Chicago as well as city financial support brings it to the South Side.

About 100 properties were considered beginning in August 2000, says Holloway, director of the institute and assistant vice president of research and development for the cosmetics company. A deal was struck on the company’s first choice for the location, but after six months, it fell apart at the last minute, Holloway recently told members of the community development commission.

At that point, the company decided the locate the institute in New Jersey, where it owned a site. “I kept looking,” Holloway says. “I didn’t want to move to Jersey.”

She found a 104-year-old building L’Oreal was able to acquire in June for $2.35 million, according to property records. Besides Holloway’s persistence, up to $2 million in tax increment financing under a proposed redevelopment agreement with the city is helping sway the company.

The facility will have a 12-seat testing salon in addition to research and development space. Pepper Construction will to the build-outs in two phases, with the first beginning in January and the second in early 2004.

The city administration is focused on retaining and attracting jobs, L’Oreal’s deal brings 30 new positions as well as keeping 23. However, 21 of the new jobs will be high-skill science-related positions paying $60,000 a year, Holloway notes.

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