Chicago community

The Aspire Center: A Timeline

The Austin Community ASPIRE initiative will kick off this year with the launch of the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation project. Here is some background information on how this important effort began:

● 2018
○ The Austin Forward. Together. (AFT) quality of life plan is created to address a set of comprehensive community-led strategies for neighborhood change. More than 500 community stakeholders contributed ideas that aim to attract, coordinate and support opportunities to improve community narrative, education, housing, youth empowerment, economic development, public safety and l civic engagement.
○ Westside Health Authority (WHA) buys the property of Robert Emmet Elementary School of Chicago Public Schools in 2018, after having been vacant since its closure in 2013. WHA is committed to allowing the AFT plan to inform the school’s redevelopment.
A visualization session is organized by Teska Associates planners to think about ways the community could meet critical needs through projects like ASPIRE.

● 2019
Architecture firm Lamar Johnson Collaborative (LJC) begins working with ACT pro bono to develop a repurposing plan for the vacant Robert Emmet Elementary School in Austin’s Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation. Later, LJC was contracted to complete the schematic design and design development for the unique opportunity to bring economic vitality and social change to the intersection of Madison and Central. This connection was made possible by United Way of Metro Chicago.

● 2020
The ASPIRE initiative was developed in response to the $10 million Chicago Prize opportunity offered by the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. The effort incorporates several goals and ideas from the community’s AFT plan and outlines how Austin can build a stronger cradle-to-career pipeline through four strategically clustered investments around existing assets in an area bounded by Madison, Chicago, Central and Laramie Avenues: Aspire Education and Wellness Campus; Aspire Austin College & Career Academy; The Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation; and Aspire Housing. The $121 million ASPIRE project is a collaboration between ACT, Westside Health Authority and By The Hand Club For Kids, and supported by IFF, Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen, Krista Inc., Purpose Built Communities. ASPIRE is named among the six finalists and begins to collect investments.

● 2021
Years of work progress in just a few months due to the Chicago price opportunity. Although not selected as the winning project, the process confirms the need to prioritize one of the four ASPIRE projects. With this in mind, the ASPIRE Center for Workforce Innovation was selected to serve as a starting point to catalyze the development of ASPIRE’s comprehensive set of initiative projects.

The prioritization of the Aspire Center leads to several funding commitments: $250,000 from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois; $10,000 from the Chicago Community Trust; $50,000 from the Joyce Foundation; $22,000 through contributions from Austin community stakeholders; $500,000 from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation; $5.09 million from United Way of Metro Chicago; $10 million from an IL DCEO grant from a capital bill, sponsored by IL State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford.
Emmet School Property Zoning Changed from RT-4 to B3-2 by the City Planning and Planning Department in December 2021.

● 2022
Brown & Momen, Inc. Selected as General Contractor to build the Aspire Center.
○ In May, the Aspire Center for Workforce Innovation receives $7.25 million in funding from the City of Chicago Department of Planning and Development as part of the Chicago Recovery Plan, a citywide effort to catalyze a sustainable economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Of all the first-round recipients, Aspire receives the highest amount of funding. This support means that the Aspire Center has 90% of the funds needed to proceed with construction, which is expected to begin as early as October 2022.