Community members and activists took over the street overlooking the Brach’s site at 401 N. Cicero last Saturday in their continued call to have the site converted into a high school campus.
Members of the Austin Community Education Network, the Westside Health Authority and the South Austin Coalition oppose current plans for the site to be converted into a distribution center.
Illinois-based ML Realty Partners purchased the former Brach candy factory in January. Absent at Saturday’s rally was state Rep. LaShawn Ford (8th), who originally proposed the high school campus idea for the site.
Attending Saturday’s rally were Nathaniel Howard of MAD-DADS, Westside Health Authority founder and CEO Jacqueline Reed, and community members, including Austin youth.
As cars passed by along Cicero Avenue, many honked their horns in support as volunteer members handed out flyers. Chants from activists included, “Our Time Has Come.”
Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church, gave an opening prayer before various speakers came to the microphone.
The WHA’s Virgil Crawford began by saying, “My friends and my brothers, I come to say to you that even though we are faced with the difficulty of today and tomorrow, I have a vision… It is a vision that I believe that the Brach Candy Company site is the site for the new Austin High School.”
Reed added, “I don’t know about you but I’m not tired yet. I want to say to the mayor of the city of Chicago-I got my fighting shoes on. We are going to have us a school out here. I’m determined that we are going to have a brand new, state-of-the-art Austin High School right here. I’ve determined it because I have declared it so. We have declared it so.”
“We want to ask the city of Chicago why are they spending $10.6 million with a rich developer,” asked Reed about the sale price listed for the entire Brach’s site. “Why are they spending $10.6 million to put a warehouse here? We got 10,000 children that don’t have a place to go to school.”
Austin parent Wanda Henderson also spoke at Saturday’s rally.
“We can do anything with the blessing of God-we’re not going to stand still, we’re going to have this school…because that is what the people want,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, the activists followed-up their Saturday effort by attending a public hearing hosted by Ald. Ed Smith (28) with the site’s new owner, ML Realty Partners, at the Garfield Park Golden Dome, 100 N. Central Park.
The developer, according to sources who attended the hearing, would not consider a proposal for using part of the Brach’s building property for a school. The developer’s representative stated that they needed all 27 acres for the proposed warehouse. There will be another meeting concerning the site early next week at City Hall.