A development team that secured a bid to redevelop the former Laramie State Bank building at 5200 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, is inviting Oak Park and River Forest residents to a community meeting about the project.
The meeting will be held Thursday, Sept. 23, 6 to 7:30 p.m., at Bethel New Life Special Event Space, 1150 N. Lamon Ave. in Chicago.
The development team, Austin United Alliance, includes the Oak Park Regional Housing Center (OPRHC) in Oak Park and Heartland Alliance, an anti-poverty organization based in Chicago.
The Alliance was selected to develop the Laramie Bank building as part of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West, a $750 million initiative designed to revitalize commercial corridors in 10 underserved communities on the city’s South and West sides.
The Alliance proposal for the historic bank building includes a new bank, 76 apartments (20 percent of which will be affordable), a courtyard plaza, a business incubator, a residential roof deck and a blues museum.
Athena Williams, executive director of the Housing Center, said Thursday’s meeting will focus on how affordable housing can be leveraged as a strategy for ending gun violence in Austin.
“We’re looking at housing as one of the main factors people need,” Williams said. “When people have a foundation of housing, they have more stability.”
Baxter Swilley, who heads up public affairs for the Housing Center, said the Laramie Bank project has a range of economic benefits that are catalysts for even more economic development along the Soul City corridor (the portion of Chicago from Austin Boulevard to roughly Cicero Avenue, now known as Mandela Road).
“We expect the increased density will improve walkability along the Soul City corridor and the retail and amenities will bring in more foot traffic for consumer density,” Swilley said. “That’s a really exciting benefit we expect from the development.”
Williams said the Alliance will be recruiting residents to become volunteer ambassadors for the Laramie Bank project, a strategy she hopes will enhance the community engagement process.
“There will be serious stakeholder engagement,” Swilley said.
Anyone who wants more information on the Laramie State Bank project can email info@AustinUnitedAlliance.org or visit www.austinunitedalliance.org.