Austin Town Hall | Photo by Eric Allix Rogers

Initiatives like Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West seek to help revitalize the business community in Austin. But as developers and social service groups create proposals to win funds to bring their project to Austin, some Austin community members feel as though they aren’t being asked what it is they truly would like to see in their community.

Austin Weekly News interviewed 15 Austin residents both in person and online to see what exactly it is they would love to see come to Austin amid the spate of Invest South/West-related redevelopment projects.

Fanya Berry reiterated what AWN has been hearing from residents during community meetings over the years: she would like to see more sit-down restaurants. She would also like to see more mental health service providers and organizations that help mothers.

“I’d like to see a parenting center, especially around prenatal care and helping with births,” she said.

Tamecia Davis said she would be interested in a local dance studio for her children.

“I would like to see some kids dance studios, so parents don’t always have to go so far for places of that nature,” she said.

Tasha Fuqua Shields would like to see something similar. She suggested more programming at Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St.

 “Get Austin Town Hall back going strong with cheer, football and dance/gymnastics for the kids in the community,” she said.

Jenola Duncan said she would like more local sit-down restaurants, mentioning IHOP and Olive Garden as examples. She lives near the intersection of North and Central avenues. Duncan added that she would like to see a Starbucks closer to her home than the Galewood Starbucks at 7112 W. North Ave.

Duncan added she also wants to see “a grocery store – a real grocery store,” such as Jewel-Osco. She said she shouldn’t have to travel outside the community just to get fresh produce.

That sentiment was shared by residents Dorothy Williams and Stephani Falasha Masego, who also spoke about the lack of grocery store options in Austin.

The last grocery store in Austin, the Save-a-Lot grocery store at 5555 W. North Ave., closed in December 2020 and a replacement store has yet to come.

Forty Acres Fresh Market, which recently won a $2.5 million grant under the Chicago Recovery Plan, is looking to bring a brick-and-mortar grocery store to the former Salvation Army location at 5713 W. Chicago Ave. by 2023.

Until then, Forty Acres has been hosting a community farmer’s market at the location on the weekends in an effort to provide residents with fresh produce, meats and other food items until their full-scale opening next year.


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...