A rendering of the Laramie State Bank redevelopment including a museum, housing, cafe, business incubator, community plaza on Chicago Avenue. (City of Chicago)

The redevelopment of the historic Laramie State Bank, 5200 W. Chicago Ave. in Austin, is making strides toward getting full City Council approval after the proposal passed the Chicago Plan Commission June 16.

 During the meeting where the proposal was approved, developers announced that they’ve made some changes to their initial design plans.

The Austin United Alliance development team, which is made up of the Oak Park Regional Housing Center and the Heartland Alliance, was selected last year out of seven proposals. The basic concept is largely intact. The building would be renovated to include office space, retail and a bank branch, and a brand-new 78-unit, six-story building with a public plaza would be built on vacant land adjacent to the building.

Developers said the proposal’s updates include a change to the mixed-use building’s exterior design. In order to make it closer to the height of the bank, the first-floor parking garage was more visible from the street, the community room was moved closer to the plaza, and the plaza design will include swinging gates that will close at night, forming a fence.

A rendering of the Laramie State Bank redevelopment. (City of Chicago)

The project is currently estimated to cost around $53 million, Oak Park Regional Housing Director Athena Williams said in a recent interview. A portion of the funding for the project is expected to come out of the Austin commercial TIF. The alliance members believe that cost may increase as inflation rises.

With the zoning changes having cleared the Plan Commission, the project was expected to go before the City Council’s Committee on Zoning on June 21. If it clears the zoning committee, it may go before the full City Council as soon as June 22. Both dates are after this publication’s print deadline. Williams said the alliance hopes to start the project in the spring of 2023, with tenants moved in by 2025.

Out of the 78 units, 45 will have rents that are affordable to residents earning at least 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) and six will be affordable to tenants earning at least 50% AMI. The rest will be market-rate.

AMI is set based on the average income for the entire Chicagoland area. According to the most recent adjustment, 60% AMI is $43,800 for a tenant living alone and $50,040 for a two-person household. 50% AMI is $36,500 for one person and $41,700 for a two-person household.

Williams told this newspaper that there are four banks interested in setting up shop in the bank building, but she didn’t go into further detail.

Williams said that the alliance will publish two newsletters and make regular updates during Ald. Emma Mitts’s (37th) regular monthly community meetings.

Mitts’ spokesperson A.L. Smith told the weekly that the meetings take place virtually on Thursdays. Williams said that a meeting is scheduled to take place on June 23 at Mitts’s office, and clarified that the updates would be quarterly rather than monthly.

Williams said that they recruited 20 street ambassadors to reach out to area block clubs to address public safety issues in the area.

“We’re working with artists and residents to put together an arts and culture committee, to not only work around Laramie Bank but to work with art in the [Chicago Avenue] corridor,” she said.

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