CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday announced three winning proposals for a multi-million dollar city neighborhood revitalization initiative that promotes development in underserved communities in the west and south sides.
The city’s Austin, Englewood, and Auburn Gresham development sites were awarded. The announcement was not praised by all in the city’s West Side community, however.
The mixed reaction comes after a big step forward for the city’s INVEST South/West, a $750 million initiative meant to promote investment in 10 communities
“Make no mistake when we support historically disadvantaged neighborhoods, the whole city benefits,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday.
Located at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue, the first approved project, awarded to the Austin United Alliance, is set to rehab the historic Laramie Bank Building. The building will include an interactive blues music museum and business incubator and an outdoor public plaza with arts, gardens, and gathering space. Developers will also look to transform adjacent vacant lots into a mixed-use residential building with 72 apartment units.
“The process was intentional and extensive and we came to the table to start by listening to community voices,” Lightfoot said.
Some community residents disagreed with the city’s approach.
Members of the Westside Health Authority protested outside the mayor’s press conference Monday, upset that their proposal – a cultural arts center depicting the story of Black migration – was not chosen.
“You’re not community-engaged,” declared Morris Reed, Westside Health Authority CEO. “You want the support. You want to carry your agenda forward and we’re tired of it.”
Protesters felt the groups that were chosen, which include the Heartland Alliance and Oak Park Housing Authority, don’t have direct ties to the Austin community.
“It’s important when you’re talking about Invest South/West to invest in people on the west side, not use this Trojan horse type of policy to bring in people the neighborhood doesn’t even want,” Reed said.
One winning proposal includes an eco-food hub at 63rd and Halsted in Englewood, expanding on the Englewood Square Shopping Center and repurposing the Green Street Fire Station into a commercial kitchen. Located in the 800 block of West 79th Street in Auburn Gresham, another winning proposal will produce 56 affordable housing units with a private garden and a playground.
“Take heed,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “In Chicago, we have a new way of doing business. It is called equitable, inclusive growth in neighborhoods. It lifts everyone up all over the city.”