CHICAGO — Auburn Gresham and North Lawndale are getting $11 million in funding for two health-focused projects as part of Invest South/West.
The funding will allow an Auburn Gresham development group and Mount Sinai Hospital System to build separate health-focused centers on the South and West sides. Officials said they hope the centers will allow residents increased access to health care and will revitalize the communities, which have suffered from years of disinvestment.
Auburn Gresham is getting $4 million to build the Healthy Lifestyle Hub at 839 W. 79th St. The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation is leading the project, which will turn a long-vacant building into a community hub that provides health care to residents.
Residents will be able to go to the hub for physical, oral and mental health care.
“This healthy hub will be here decades to come, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Maurice Cox, commissioner of planning and development, said at a Monday press conference announcing the grants. “The fact that it’s owned by a Black development corporation that will be here for as long as the work is to be done, it’s a way for us to increase Black wealth in a neighborhood that we care so deeply about.”
The other $7 million will go to the North Lawndale Surgical and Ambulatory Care Center from Mount Sinai Health System. The center will be 30,000 square feet and will help Mount Sinai Health System provide health care on the West Side.
“COVID really has shone a light on racial disparities and in such a, again, unforgivable, compelling way. I will tell you that disparities are something that Sinai Health System knows well,” Mount Sinai CEO Karen Teitelbaum said at the press conference. “We have to be together in addressing these disparities. There’s just no other way.”
Carlos Nelson, CEO of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, said more work is needed on the South and West sides. Redlining and white flight led to businesses and transportation options being closed, and residents lost out for decades due to disinvestment and systemic racism, Nelson said.
But the Lifestyle Hub will bring back some life to Auburn Gresham, Nelson said.
“This disinvestment was rampant, has been rampant. Buildings became derelict and demolished. Other buildings sat vacant for years. This is what systemic and structural racism will do,” Nelson said at the press conference. “We’re standing on the representation of systemic and structural racism. For generations, our families, our children … have moved through our community with vacant lots and vacant buildings as the backdrop of our existence.”
Lightfoot said the mission of Invest South/West is to address “structural inequities” in the neighborhoods, and the health centers will help address lifespan discrepancies and chronic health conditions for people on the South and West sides.
The mayor said she also hopes such investments will lead to others investing in hard-hit communities.
“All of our fates are intertwined. We must think of ourselves as each other’s business and each other’s neighbors,” Lightfoot said at the press conference. “The events of the past few months have been hard on all of us, but if it’s taught us anything, it’s the huge importance of work we’re doing to dismantle the system of racism and inequality that has created the generational chasms of access and opportunity and hope within our city.”
The initiative is focused on getting city money and resources to fund improvements to retail, transportation, public space and other sectors in 10 neighborhoods that have seen disinvestment:
- Auburn Gresham
- North Lawndale
- Humboldt Park
- Quad Communities
- New City
- South Chicago
- South Shore
The city used CARES Act funding from the federal government to create the grants.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.