‘We Can Make Great Things Happen’

Melissa Eide

AUBURN GRESHAM — Carlos Nelson made use of to drive earlier the “lifeless” setting up at 839 W. 79th St. just about each and every working day for decades.

Home to a drab public support office environment in the 1970s, city officials bricked in excess of the 18-by-18-foot home windows on the floor ground and boarded up the next and third flooring home windows when the place of work closed. The just about 100-yr-aged terra cotta making sat vacant for a long time — but Nelson noticed prospective for revival.

Following 7 decades of perform, Nelson appeared on Friday as Auburn Gresham’s 4-tale Nutritious Life-style Hub welcomed dozens of neighbors with a Hollywood purple carpet, stay music and healthier food items.

Group leaders and regional officials reduce the ribbon in Oct but Friday’s extravaganza was for neighbors to roam the halls for the first time, explained Nelson, executive director at the Higher Auburn Gresham Growth Corporation. 

A “dark and dismal” sight in Auburn Gresham is now a beacon of light giving clinical treatment, wholesome foodstuff, community house and other solutions methods absent from neighbors’ households, Nelson mentioned. 

“I made use of to see this making and the boarded-up home windows, and it damage to consider of what other people considered about our men and women,” Nelson claimed. “When I visualized the Wholesome Hub, I desired to be equipped to convey daily life into this setting up. We desired to light-weight up 79th Road, literally and figuratively. Today is a day of pleasure.” 

Credit score: Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
The UIC Community Heart features a mural commissioned by artist Dorian Sylvain featuring the “faces” of Auburn Gresham.

‘You’ll See The Light Emanating From This Building’

The Healthful Way of life Hub will replenish a community prolonged denied necessities and features, Nelson reported. The 79th and Halsted intersection alone has shed a Conserve A Lot grocery shop, a CVS pharmacy and a Financial institution of The usa branch.

A UI Well being Clinic and Urgent Care Center on the second ground can supply professional medical, dental and psychological wellness companies to extra than 30,000 individuals for each calendar year, Nelson reported. Virtually 500 people have appear in even without having any advertising and marketing for the clinic, Nelson said. 

The 3rd floor is dwelling to Heartland Alliance and the UIC Neighborhood Heart, with tutoring expert services and compact company workshops provided by the university.

Lender of The united states will quickly open up on the 1st ground, many years following closing the close by site. A high-tech kitchen area and schooling heart on the same ground, sponsored by a $600,000 donation from the Chicago Bears, will give nearby cooks a house to perfect their healthful recipes, Nelson mentioned. 

Significant Brothers Large Sisters of Metropolitan Chicago, Serenity Residence Health Treatment, Mikkey’s Retro Grill and a pharmacy will also quickly open at the hub, Nelson stated. 

“It’ll be like you’re in Downtown Chicago,” Nelson claimed. “We’ll have dining places, organizations, and a bank in a person house, and when you walk by, you’ll see the light-weight emanating from this building.”

Credit history: Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
Antonio “Tone” Barnes poses with his wife, Syntyche “Syn” Barnes. The duo very own Juiced by Shic.

Antonio “Tone” Barnes, co-founder of Juiced by Shic, handed out cost-free samples of his healthier, blended smoothies even though guests toured the house. 

The Black-owned enterprise, operated by a partner-and-spouse duo, is the latest tenant in the healthy living centre. 

Increasing up on the South Aspect, Barnes did not have quite a few merchants in his community that available clean fruits and veggies, he said. Juiced By Shic in Auburn Gresham will be the transform he constantly preferred to see, he stated. 

“We are bringing an choice of refreshing fruits and veggies into the community and exposing our persons to different forms of wholesome substances,” Barnes said. “You are what you eat. I really feel that food items is drugs, and the much healthier you eat, the much healthier you’ll be.” 

Enid Johnson, a former Auburn Gresham resident, came back again to the community Friday to witness “something great,” she reported.

Nutritious foods solutions like Juiced by Shic and the UI Wellness Centre are some of her preferred additions, she reported. 

“I program on coming below and using edge of all the solutions they give,” Johnson explained. “I want to assist local community businesses as considerably as feasible. We have gotten absent from that on the South Facet in our communities, so this is superb. I’m psyched about all the matters that are likely to transpire right here.”

Credit score: Atavia Reed/Block Club Chicago
A huge product of former Chicago Bears soccer player Devin Hester.

For Charles Perry, viewing the Healthy Hub Friday was the start off of creating a legacy. 

With his modest children in tow, his household ate nutritious tacos, toured the many assets out there in the hub and danced to beats spun by DJ Farley “Jackmaster” Funk, Perry claimed. 

When his young children reflect on Friday’s celebration in afterwards years, he hopes the eventful day will be the catalyst that motivated them to desire massive, Perry explained. 

“I needed them to see what is feasible if you have a eyesight,” Perry stated. “Life is even bigger than the 3-by-3 blocks that they stay on. The globe is so a great deal larger, and I want them to check out it.  Right now, it could not signify nearly anything to them, but 20 decades from now, they’ll bear in mind the way we danced. That is what we have to do as a local community. We have to give our kids encounters so they can go and generate their experiences. 

I’m envisioning my little ones telling me to arrive out since they’re having a grand opening at a creating two times as significant as this.”

The Healthier Life style is evidence if you give a neighborhood the suitable resources, “we can make great factors materialize,” Nelson stated. 

The South Side development corporation gained $4 million from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West method in 2020 to build the life style hub. Months later, the undertaking won the 1st at any time Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s $10 million Chicago Prize to deliver the vision nearer to fact. 

Now, the wholesome residing center will inspire other individuals to see the greatness that thrives in the neighborhood, Nelson said. 

“The Healthful Life style Hub allows neighbors know that Auburn Gresham is a location in which they need to increase their roots, reinvest and elevate their people,” Nelson claimed.  “I want people to notify their youngsters and grandkids about this so individuals can search at Auburn Gresham, see a wonderful brick bungalow group, and say, ‘Alright, let’s commit in this article. Let us improve our people and develop prosperity in this article.’” 

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