The future site of the Bruce restaurant and event space in Austin, 5924 W. Chicago Ave. | Google Earth

The construction of the Bruce restaurant and event space in Austin, 5924 W. Chicago Ave., is treading water due to issues with contractors and rising building material costs, according to Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th).

During the alderman’s 29th Ward community meeting held Nov. 17, a constituent asked the alderman about the status of the project, noting that planned renovations of the long-vacant office building appear to have stopped. The community member also expressed concerns about the building no longer having a roof.  

Talieferro said that the development team’s first contractor “scammed them” and demolished the roof when it wasn’t supposed to. That, along with the rising construction costs, set the project back, he said. 

Neither two businesses behind the project nor the contractor responded to requests for comment by deadline. Taliaferro said they still plan on finishing the project, but he couldn’t give a firm timeline.

The Bruce is a collaboration between two Black-owned companies — Juan & Only Events event planning company and Batter and Berries, a Lincoln Park-based breakfast café at 2748 N. Lincoln Ave. 

Austin native Juan Teague, who owns Juan & Only, named the business after her father. As she explained during the March 19 meeting of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals, she wanted to create something that would benefit existing residents and bring customers from both sides of Austin Boulevard to the Chicago Avenue corridor.

Teague said that the Bruce would function as a restaurant in mornings and mid-afternoons, and as event space in late afternoons and evenings.

But several visits to the site in the past few weeks — most recently on Dec. 1 — showed no sign of construction activity at the building. While support beams were still present, the roof itself has been removed. 

According to the building permit issued on April 6, Teague originally contracted with South Holland-based Da Capo Inc. The company did not respond to the request for comment by deadline. 

“They’re still planning on bringing Batter and Berries, and, hopefully, when the construction prices go down, everything is going to be okay,” Taliaferro said. 

Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...