A rendering of the North Austin Community Center. | Provided

The City Council has agreed to sell public land that will allow the development of a youth and recreation center on the West Side to move forward.

Construction of the North Austin Community Center is underway on adjacent land at 1841 N. Laramie Ave. after the city sold that lot for $1 in 2020.

Now, land at 5113 Vacant St. will be sold for $1 to Expert Management Inc., a company that will remediate the property before giving it to the North Austin Community Center.

The $31 million project is being developed as a partnership between By the Hand Club for Kids and Grace and Peace Church Revival Center, with additional support from Intentional Sports and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

The North Austin Community Center will be a state-of-the-art sports facility that will bring after-school programs and athletic opportunities to local youth. The center will begin to remedy the lack of programs and facilities for young people on the West Side, said John Zayas, pastor of Grace and Peace Church.

“There is something about having a facility with that type of quality and expertise and being able to really pour into kids with purpose and hope. They’ll be able to dream of what they could be,” Zayas said.

Rendering of Jason Heyward Baseball Academy batting cages | Provided

A rendering of the batting cages being developed for the Jason Heyward Baseball Academy at the North Austin sports and youth center being developed.

The Vacant Street lot was formerly the site of the Glidden Paint factory, which left the land “heavily contaminated,” said Mike Parella, a project manager working on the project for the city’s planning department.

Expert Management Inc. agreed to do the environmental remediation on the land at its own expense, Parella said. The company is a subsidiary of AkzoNobel, the Dutch conglomerate that previously owned the paint factory that contaminated the land.

A By The Hand clubhouse being developed at the center is expected to serve at least 400 kids from neighborhood public schools. The clubhouse will host after-school programs offering academic assistance, technology instruction, tutoring and mentorships.

“Our role in this new facility will be to help our kids excel academically while loving them holistically,” said Donnita Travis, By the Hand’s executive director.

Outside, there will be fields and courts expected to serve at least 25,000 participants each year. This last plot of land sold by the city will eventually become the project’s largest outdoor athletic pitch.

The campus will include the Chicago Fire FC Soccer Field, which will become the city’s only indoor FIFA-regulation turf arena and the largest turf field on the West Side. The Fire will also offer at least 20 hours of weekly free community soccer programs at the campus.

The Jason Heyward Baseball Academy will also offer sports training at the center.

“The pandemic and what took place with the riots, our kids didn’t have hope for anything. We saw kids were hopeless. We believe we will give kids the opportunity to find some hope,” Zayas said.

CONTACT: pascal@blockclubchi.org