West Side year in review
This year the West Side made strides in several development projects. Businesses struggled to generate foot traffic amid inflation and the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the city used federal stimulus funds and more established funding sources like TIF revenue to provide grants. North Lawndale’s 24th Ward saw a changing of the guard and another alderman lost his shot at an open judicial seat.
This year, one West Side mayor resigned, another was not elected judge. Ald. Michael Scott (24) resigned on May 24 to take a job as director of industry and community relations at the Cinespace Chicago studio, which is located in his ward. He was then appointed to the Chicago Board of Education.
Nineteen candidates applied to fill Scott’s seat. Mayor Lori Lightfoot eventually appointed his sister, Monique Scott. She is running to retain her seat against seven candidates, most of whom ran against Michael Scott in the past.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) ran for Cook County Circuit Court Judge in the 11th Subdistrict, which includes Galewood and other parts of Austin north of North Avenue, Chicago neighborhoods farther north, all of Oak Park and about half of Proviso Township, and parts of several northwestern suburbs. But he lost the Democratic primary to attorney Aileen Bhandari, who ran the West Community Justice Center and previously ran for an at-large District Court seat. While Taliaferro did well in the city, Bhandari led in the suburbs. With no Republican or independent candidates, Bhandari won by default.
Taliaferro decided to run to keep his aldermanic seat. He currently faces three challengers.
Investo South/West, Mayor Lightfoot’s push to direct investment to vacant, typically city-owned properties on the South and West Sides, is making progress.
In North Lawndale, the city approved plans by East Lake Management Corporation and Grace Memorial Church to build a six-story, mixed-use development at the unused District 10 police station, 3201-3423 W. Ogden Ave. called Grace Manor, the project will include ground-floor retail and 65 affordable apartments for tenants earning 60% of the area median income for the Chicagoland region.
Further west, the city approved plans by Related Midwest and 548 Development for the long-vacant land between Roosevelt Road, Kostner Avenue, 5th Avenue and Kildare Avenue — best known for its role in the FBI’s Silver Shovel anti-corruption investigation . The developers agreed to build an industrial complex housing goods, distribution and tenants of cold storage. The plan will also include a community innovation hub, a rooftop solar farm and a park. The project is expected to create 700 permanent and temporary jobs and provide workforce training programs and business incubation space.
The city also announced it is seeking developers for the vacant lots around the Kedzie/Lake Green Line “L” station in East Garfield Park and the site of the West Garfield Park Aldi location, which closed in October 2021. The city is considering teams possible development for the former, but the process is still quite early for the latter.
This year also saw some updates and some incremental progress on Austin developments that have been in the works for years. Westside Health Authority and the Austin Coming Together coalition unveiled plans to transform the former Emmet Elementary School, 5500-5536 W. Madison St. at the Aspire Center, a workplace training and community service center. While the center isn’t expected to open until 2024, on Dec. 3, the organization unveiled the POPfit outdoor fitness space in the corner of the school’s former parking lot.
Plans for the long-awaited redevelopment of the former Sears location at the northeast corner of North and Harlem streets changed again. Novak representatives said a medical tenant would only occupy the north half of the west lot and that they are still interested in putting retail in the south half. They haven’t ruled out the grocery store either.
The new plans require city approval, but Novak hopes to have the medical center portion built by 2024.
Business and Finance
Last January, Tina Augustus resigned as executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce to create the West Side Chamber of Commerce to act as an umbrella entity that will allow neighborhood-based chambers to pool their resources.
By that point, Austin’s room was already struggling. Augustus was filling in as interim director, the organization lost its city funding and the board was reduced to four members.
The remaining board members set out to revive the room. They expanded the board, hired a new executive director, Khalilah Johnson, and worked to restore funding. Under Johnson’s watch, the chamber has sponsored events, hired staff to help businesses navigate city and state red tape and worked with the Illinois Department of Economic Development and West Side Forward to hold business development workshops .
Earlier this year, maker Mars Candy announced it was planning to close its Galewood factory at 2019 N. Oak Park Ave., in 2024. This fall, the company worked with Collaborative Connections and LISC Chicago to host several in-person and virtual meetings to develop a resident-led vision for the future of the site.
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