DESIGNS ON NEW INVESTMENT
City solicits plans to improve commercial areas in Auburn Gresham, Austin and Englewood
City planners Monday solicited development proposals for three neighborhoods prioritized under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program, hoping for ideas that will draw more investment to the surrounding blocks.
The proposals cover commercial stretches in Auburn Gresham, Austin and Englewood that officials believe are ripe for improvement. The properties at issue are either cityowned or in private hands, with the proposals developed in consultation with the owners.
“These sites offer flagship opportunities to help revitalize their respective neighborhoods with quality-of-life amenities, jobs and mixed-income housing that leverage local transit and advance longestablished community goals,” Lightfoot said.
Responses to the “requests for proposals” — or RFPs — are due Nov. 24. The three neighborhoods chosen are among 10 Lightfoot is highlighting with Invest South/ West. The program seeks to tap $250 million in city funds over the next three years and connect it to $500 million from others such as the transit agencies or the Chicago Park District for targeted improvements in underserved areas.
Officials said RFPs for other neighborhoods in Invest South/ West will be issued in coming months. But planners are braving a market leery of speculative investments because of the pandemic and recent looting.
The RFPs were to be posted later Monday at chicago.gov/investsw.
For inspiration, the city included design sketches from top architecture firms and the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, although respondents can follow their own paths. The exact sites are:
† In Austin, 5200-24 W. Chicago Ave., that includes five empty lots and the vacant Laramie State Bank building, a landmark. City officials want a mixed-used rehabilitation of the former bank building.
† In Englewood, the 6200 block of South Green Street and 914 W. 63rd St., 4.28 city-owned acres that bracket the Whole Foods-anchored shopping center at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets. City officials have asked for a vibrant, walkable, mixed-use “town center” to play off its historical role as a neighborhood hub. The property includes a former firehouse that’s a landmark.
† In Auburn Gresham, 838-58 W. 79th St., six parcels of vacant city-owned land where officials want ground-floor commercial space with residences upstairs. The property is across the street from the planned Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub and near a planned Metra station.
Each RFP includes a pre-qualified list of design teams to help developers partner with emerging and minority- and women-owned architecture firms.
“From the proposal stage to the selection process to the ribbon cuttings, the development process will reflect inclusivity, equity and the need for high-quality designs that foster additional community improvements on behalf of existing residents and businesses,” said Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox.
A design proposal for 838-58 W. 79th St. in Auburn Gresham by the architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
A proposal for part of the Englewood property near 63rd and Halsted streets calls for a walkable “town center.” It was drafted by the Illinois Institute of Technology and Solomon Cordwell Buenz.
A proposal by the firm Perkins & Will for property in Austin at 5200-24 W. Chicago Ave.