Auburn Gresham Sets Itself Up For A Revitalization

After years of neglect, the community is getting an infusion of much-needed capital investment and development. But can it attract more businesses by growing its population of young singles and families?

The shuttered terra cotta furniture showroom near 79th and Halsted streets had sat vacant for decades. Twenty-five graduating classes at Leo High School next door came and went. The building sat almost unnoticed, a persistent sign of disinvestment in the South Side neighborhood.

But Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp., or GAGDC, got the keys to the building in 2017 after tracking down the owner in Hyde Park and arranging some “creative financing” to spur redevelopment. This month Nelson and his team will cut the ribbon on the $20 million Healthy Lifestyle Hub that includes a clinic and pharmacy and will create an estimated 150 jobs.

Across the street, developer Torrey Barrett is preparing to build the first of two apartment buildings, part of the city’s Invest South/West initiative. Less than a mile south, entrepreneur Erika Allen and her partners are launching an anaerobic digester that will convert food waste to renewable energy and compost for farming. And Metra is starting construction of a $30 million station at 79th Street on the Rock Island Line. Overall more than $130 million is being invested in the beleaguered community.

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