A hi-tech test kitchen. A restaurant. A fitness center. A Black-owned pharmacy.
Work has begun on a unique, comprehensive lifestyle and wellness facility in Auburn Gresham. Located at 839 W. 79th St., the 60,000-square-foot building, the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub, is destined to be the ultimate health and wellness facility that will offer a multitude of health care services encompassing four floors in the predominately Black neighborhood.
The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC), which led the $17.8 million project, will have its headquarters in the building, which stood vacant for 20 years.
On October 14, the Crusader has given an exclusive tour of the building along with several executives of JPMorgan Chase, the largest lender of the project. The facility is one of several projects in Auburn Gresham being funded by JPMorgan Chase.
The tour began with an overview of the sprawling project, expected to be completed by next spring. The facility will bring together several businesses that will offer holistic health and wellness services to neighborhood residents under one roof.
The GAGDC said the facility will give residents easier access to health care management. By offering various services, project organizers hope the facility will help fuel the lifestyle of Auburn Gresham residents and empower them with skills to help others in a neighborhood who lack health care services.
The first floor will infuse themes of community and healthy lifestyles. It will have a high-tech test kitchen and training center sponsored by the Chicago Bears. In the test kitchen, residents of all ages will learn creative ways to prepare food as medicine. The cooking demonstrations will be live-streamed online.
Yards away will be a sit-down restaurant and a coffee shop and cafe. Between the test kitchen and coffee shop will be a community room that will serve as a multipurpose auditorium and conference room that will offer classes on financial literacy and healthy living.
Designed with removable doors, the community room can open to connect to the test kitchen and the coffee shop and cafe.
The first floor will also have a Black-owned pharmacy and radiology facility, a Bank of America branch, and an expansive Pritzker Traubert Foundation lobby.
There will also be storage spaces for bicycles. There are plans for a fitness center, but the location has not been determined according to the floor plans. The entire building will offer free Wi-Fi service.
The pharmacy will fill the void left by the civil unrest last year, which left the neighborhood without a pharmacy where residents can get their prescriptions. The civil unrest also left the neighborhood with fewer banks.
The second and third floors will house various health clinics and staff suites. The University of Illinois (UI) will have a Mile Square Health Center on the second floor. UI Health will also host health classes at the facility. A special women’s health and wellness center will be on the third floor.
The fourth floor will house the headquarters of the GAGDC, currently located at 7901 S. Racine Ave. On the top of the building will be a green roof that will provide space for camp attendees and neighborhood children who will learn about green technology and urban agriculture. The basement will provide additional storage space for tenants.
The tour included just the building’s first two floors, which have been gutted and are in the process of being rehabbed. Carlos Nelson, CEO of the GAGDC, said the project will be completed next spring.
Nelson said 90 percent of the space is already booked. He said they are still searching for a coffee shop and café business owner.
The $17.8 million project is being funded by a variety of sources. Chase provided nearly $10 million in tax investment credits and loans.
The city of Chicago gave $4 million as part of its INVEST South/West program. The state of Illinois gave $500,000, and the Pritzker Foundation contributed over $3.6 million.
To help fund the project, on its website GAGDC is offering donors who give $1,000 the opportunity to have a commemorative engraved plaque placed on the building.
The GAGDC will also hold a fundraising gala on October 28.
“It’s really about promoting good health, healthy living, healthy lifestyles,” Nelson said. “We want this building to belong to the community. This is a community space.”
Norma L. Sanders, director of special initiatives at the GAGDC, said, “the building that you can see from the renderings is going to be absolutely beautiful.”
Congressman Bobby L. Rush said the new facility will be an asset to Auburn Gresham.
“I am enormously excited about the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Building currently under construction in the 1st District,” said Rush.
“This project will bring lifesaving health care resources to a neighborhood where they are badly needed, create more than 100 local jobs, and breathe new life into a historic building, transforming it into a vibrant center for community gathering.
I have been a strong supporter of this project since the beginning and look forward to seeing it completed!”