This year saw the West Side take steps forward on several development projects. Businesses struggled to generate foot traffic amid inflation and the after-effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the city used the federal stimulus funding and more established funding sources such as TIF revenue to offer grants. North Lawndale’s 24th Ward saw a changing of the guard and another alderman lost his shot at an open judicial seat.
This year, one West Side alderman resigned another failed to be elected judge. Ald. Michael Scott (24th) resigned on May 24 to take a job as a director of industry and community relations at Cinespace Chicago studio, which is located in his ward. He was subsequently appointed to the Chicago Board of Education.
Nineteen candidates applied to fill Scott’s seat. Mayor Lori Lightfoot eventually appointed his sister, Monique Scott. She is running to keep her seat against seven candidates, most of whom ran against Michael Scott in the past.
Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) ran for Cook County Circuit Court Judge in the 11th Subcircuit, which includes Galewood and other parts of Austin north of North Avenue, the Chicago neighborhoods further north, the entirety of Oak Park and about half of Proviso Township, and portions of several northwestern suburbs. But he lost the Democratic primary to attorney Aileen Bhandari, who headed the Community Justice Center West and previously ran for an at-large Circuit Court seat. While Taliaferro did well in the city, Bhandari led in the suburbs. With no Republican or independent candidates running, Bhandari won by default.
Taliaferro decided to run to keep his aldermanic seat. He currently faces three challengers.
Invest South/West, Mayor Lightfoot’s push to steer investment toward vacant, usually city-owned properties on the South and West sides, is progressing.
In North Lawndale, the city approved East Lake Management Corporation’s and Grace Memorial Church’s plans to build a six-story, mixed-use development on the underutilized 10th District police station, 3201-3423 W. Ogden Ave. Dubbed Grace Manor, the project will include retail on the ground floor and 65 apartments affordable to tenants earning 60% of the Area Median Income for the Chicagoland region.
Further west, the city approved Related Midwest’s and 548 Development’s plans for the long-vacant land between Roosevelt Road, Kostner Avenue, 5th Avenue and Kildare Avenue — best known for its role in the Silver Shovel anti-corruption FBI investigation. The developers agreed to build an industrial complex housing freight, distribution and cold storage tenants. The plan will also include a community innovation center, a rooftop solar farm and a park. The project is projected to create 700 permanent and temporary jobs and offer workforce training programs and business incubation space.
The city also announced that it’s looking for developers for the vacant lots around the Kedzie/Lake Green Line ‘L’ station in East Garfield Park and the site of the West Garfield Park Aldi location, which was shut down in October 2021. The city is considering potential development teams for the former, but the process is still fairly early for the latter.
This year also saw some updates and some incremental progress on Austin developments that have been in the works for years. Westside Health Authority and Austin Coming Together coalition unveiled the plan to transform the former Emmet Elementary School, 5500-5536 W. Madison St. into Aspire Center, a workplace training and community service hub. While the center isn’t expected to open until 2024 at the earliest, on Dec. 3, the organization unveiled the POPfit outdoor fitness space at the corner of the school’s former parking lot.
The plans for the long-awaited redevelopment of the former Sears location at the northeast corner of North and Harlem avenues changed again. Novak representatives said that a medical tenant would only occupy the northern half of the west lot and that they are still interested in putting retail on the south half. They have not ruled out the grocery store.
The new plans require city approval, but Novak hopes to have the medical center portion built by 2024.
Business and Financing
Last January, Tina Augustus resigned as the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce to establish the West Side Chamber of Commerce to act as an umbrella entity that will allow neighborhood-based chambers to pull together their resources.
By that point, the Austin chamber was already struggling. Augustus was filling in as interim director, the organization lost its city funding and the board was down to four members.
The remaining board members set out to revitalize the chamber. They expanded the board, hired a new executive director, Khalilah Johnson, and worked to get funding back. Under Johnson’s watch, the chamber has sponsored events, hired employees to help businesses navigate city and state bureaucracy and worked with the Illinois Department of Economic Development and West Side Forward to hold business development workshops.
Early this year, the Mars Candy manufacturer announced that it was planning to close its Galewood plant at 2019 N. Oak Park Ave., in 2024. This fall, the company worked with Collaborative Connections and LISC Chicago to organize several in-person and virtual meetings to develop a resident-led vision for the site’s future.