Over the past year, there have been a sizable number of advancements in opportunities to redesign, revamp, and revitalize Chicago’s Austin community. Looking back at our progress is important not only to celebrate what has been accomplished but also to breathe life into the year ahead of us. With many community projects launched into motion recently, Austin Coming Together (ACT) is here to maintain its standing and support of community-led transformation into 2023.
Disinvestment is “the withdrawal or reduction of an investment” while misinvestment is “to invest incorrectly or unwisely,” and Austin has been hindered by both while other Chicago neighborhoods have continued to prosper. Traditionally, investment in Austin has been in activities and efforts that limit access to opportunities instead of increasing access, like mass incarceration and more policing.
Despite being the City’s second-largest community in population with 93,000 people, Austin residents constantly find themselves struggling to access adequate resources like food, housing, healthcare, education, employment opportunities, and more. The journey we are on is one that is shared among everyone. Only together can we tap the promise and potential our community possesses in building a better and brighter future for all.
In response to growing challenges, the community came together several years ago to inspire dynamic change. The Austin Forward. Together. (AFT) quality-of-life plan, which ACT stewards, was created to address 23 strategies with 84 total actions across 7 Issue Areas between 2019 and 2024: Community Narrative, Education, Housing, Youth Empowerment, Economic Development, Public Safety, and Civic Engagement. Created by and for Austin residents, the plan is the primary vehicle that has sparked the Austin renaissance. With many of the plan’s actions already having been initialized over the past four years, the Austin renaissance is underway and going strong. Four unique development projects have not only been significant indicators of its progress but also have been amplifying and accelerating the progress of the AFT plan in several of its issue areas.
Those projects are:
● BUILD THE FUTURE (headed by BUILD Chicago)
● North Austin Community Center (headed by By The Hand Club For Kids)
● Laramie State Bank Redevelopment (headed by Austin United Alliance)
● Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation (headed by Westside Health Authority and
Austin Coming Together)
The number of physical development projects in the works today is at a level Austin has never seen before. In addition to the sheer number of projects, the fact that they aim to develop permanent, long-term fixtures addressing a variety of issue areas in the community is what makes this moment truly special. The unprecedented momentum across these projects could have never been a reality without the inextinguishable dedication and support from our member organizations, partners, and residents of the Austin community. Austin has led the charge in these efforts and is striving for real change. This representation of projects is unique in that they are ALL led by community-based groups or individuals. The time is now for the Austin community to continue working alongside one another in turning the tide. The support and investment we have received through these projects will move our community forward, and ensure we are no longer held back. The Austin renaissance is transformative because it relies on the deep support and commitment of all who call Austin their home.