Austin and Galewood residents gathered together recently for the last in a series of public forums to create a community-wide, sustainability “roadmap.”

Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson, hosted the last session, featuring residents and 29th Ward Ald. Deborah Graham (29th). 

Jobs and industry, healthy businesses, transportation and education are among the issues highlighted for Austin’s plan. A group of residents, or “teams,” have been formed around those and other issues. 

The groups continued to discuss their vision for the community at the Nov. 5 session at the refectory. Each team picked three practical items and one top priority to work on in 2014.

Graham and others stressed the importance of using existing community resources to accomplish the goals of a sustainability roadmap, such as fostering healthy businesses and working with youth.

“Some of the stuff we need to do has been put in place,” she said. “We’re not working in this alone or reinventing the wheel.”

Rev. Reginald Bachus, executive director of Austin Coming Together spoke to the group about some of his organization’s highlights, many of which lined up directly with the new community plan. Austin Coming Together works with local groups and residents to collaborate on early childhood, youth/education and the workforce.

Working on these things can change the story in Austin, Rev. Bachus said. 

Andrew Born, directory of community planning for Austin Coming Together, called the roadmap impressive.

Like Graham, Born urged the group to take the work they’ve been doing to existing community groups. 

But the community plan isn’t just about addressing problems; another focus is highlighting Austin’s assets.

Tom Drebenstedt, a 14-year Galewood resident, said most people don’t know about the landmark parks, historic districts and libraries in the community.

“We’re the western-most post of Chicago. We want to make sure the suburbs know what Austin is about,” he said.

His team is calling themselves “The Cultured Crew,” and they’re setting out to take an inventory of the neighborhood’s attractions — like the Austin Town Hall and Sankofa Cultural Arts Center — and find a way to spread the word. 

Five-year Austin resident Charmin Edwards said this was the first meeting in the series she was able to attend, and she’s excited.

“People keep talking about problems, but we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. 

We can find the gaps and fill them in,” she said.

The next phase for the roadmap, according to Graham, is to update the sustainability plan with the final meeting’s information and put out a document for public comment between now and January. Group team leaders will also be holding their own meetings.

“We have to figure out how to keep it moving, Graham said. “We can’t let it fall apart.