Austin-based partners Austin Coming Together (ACT) and Westside Health Authority (WHA) are co-developers for the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation project, the transformation of the Emmett School building and property at Central Avenue and Madison in Austin into a centralized location for both supportive services and complementary career development programs. In addition to ACT and WHA being anchor tenants at the Center, both organizations have been working together since 2019 to craft the detailed project vision in addition to leading the fundraising and community outreach that have enabled the project to be ready to begin construction this year.
Let’s get to know the organizations that will operate the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation:
Aspire Center Development Organizations
Westside Health Authority (WHA)
WHA has owned the property where the now closed Emmet School resides since 2018 and has been providing support to residents through community reentry, youth development, and employment services for over 30 years. They focus on economic development projects that revitalize and rebuild the Austin community and surrounding areas by leveraging the power of ordinary citizens. WHA’s real estate development team is one of the most skilled and experienced nonprofit property development teams on the west side. With neighborhood people, WHA has built commercial space for Cook County’s Health Center, office space for medical providers, and rehabbed almost 40 vacant homes using local contractors.
Austin Coming Together (ACT)
Since 2010, ACT has facilitated collaboration among its member network to collectively impact education and economic development outcomes in Austin. ACT assisted the community in creating its first-ever quality-of-life plan called Austin Forward. Together. and manages its ongoing implementation, in addition to engaging with residents to get them connected to resources.
IFF is a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant, and developer that works with nonprofits to create opportunities for low-income communities. They assisted with the financial feasibility planning for ASPIRE and the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation.
Lamar Johnson Collaborative
After first engaging with ACT pro-bono, Lamar Johnson Collaborative became the architectural firm contracted to create the designs for ASPIRE. They also designed the POPcourts! on Chicago Avenue in Austin, a vacant lot transformed into an outdoor event space that community members helped paint and customize.
“Happy to see Chicago funding incredible projects in neighborhoods that so desperately need them” – Max Komnenich, Associate Principal at Lamar Johnson Collaborative
Brown & Momen, Inc.
Founded in 1988, Brown & Momen, Inc. is an award-winning general contracting and construction management firm located on the Southside that will oversee the preconstruction and construction of the Aspire Center.
Aspire Center Tenants
Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC)
Since 1985, JARC has trained low-income adults in manufacturing and will continue their free on-site skills training at the Aspire Center, teaching Computer Numerical Control machine operation, welding, and mechanical assembly.
BMO Harris Bank
In conjunction with the organizations located within the Aspire Center and in ACT’s expansive member network, a partnership with BMO Harris will ensure residents have access to integrated services of income support, financial coaching, and employment services to help them become financially stable and connect to the economic mainstream.
The Austin Community Hub – Austin Coming Together
ACT’s Austin Community Hub will operate out of the Aspire Center and leverage its seamless intake and referral system, powered by the electronic software Now-Pow, to connect residents to a coordinated suite of workforce training and social support services offered by over 50 organizations within ACT’s member network.
Westside Health Authority’s Austin Employment Center
The Austin Employment Center specializes in helping residents find pathways to employment and long-term career success, from youth, returning citizens, veterans, handicapped, unemployed, and even homeless residents, while also addressing the human resources needs of local businesses. Free services include job readiness training, job placement, job club, overcomers’ support group, case management services, and vocational training.
As the project continues to evolve, other tenants will be added such as an employer partner, a federally qualified health center, and a cafe.
The first phase of the redevelopment will begin this year and will include the building’s shell, core structure, as well as the first and second floors. Two more phases will follow and will be focused on the third floor and the Commercial Center Building. Overall construction is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2023, with the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation aiming to open in early 2024.
Partnerships are key drivers for the Center and for the ASPIRE Initiative (ASPIRE) as a whole, which includes four total projects. Learn more about ASPIRE at AustinComingTogether.org/ASPIRE.