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Austin, Garfield Park, North Lawndale

Closed Sears Site In Austin To Get $100 Million Medical Facility, Grocery Store, Townhomes And Apartments, Neighbors Told

Residents have waited years for the now-demolished Sears at North and Harlem avenues to be replaced with a development.

AUSTIN — Redevelopment plans on the site of a former West Side Sears store and other nearby vacant land have expanded to include a 62,000-square-foot medical facility, officials told residents Wednesday night.

Residents have waited years for the now-demolished Sears at North and Harlem avenues to be replaced with new development. Plans for apartments fell through in 2020, and officials at the time promised a grocery store was coming. The pandemic has slowed down the project, however.

On Wednesday night, the developers of the property and two adjacent sites said a yet-to-be-finalized grocery store is still coming, and revealed to neighbors that a medical facility will also be built.

John Novak, CEO of Novak Construction, joined 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro for the virtual meeting Wednesday. Novak said the medical facility could cost up to $100 million and be done by late 2024.

The grocery store and a residential area with 125 apartments and 25 townhomes would be built nearby at Neva and Wabansia avenues, with construction set to begin next summer.

Taliaferro and Novak representatives said the hospital and the other projects represent new new community development and investment.

“I want to build something that we’re going to be proud of,” Novak said. “I think this is going to set the stage for our work on the West Side and bring a lot of value to the community.”

The proposed medical building would stand three stories and 60 feet tall and have 300 parking spaces. It would provide same-day appointments and services such as X-rays, MRIs, mammograms and ultrasounds. It stops short of being a fully realized hospital, however, as it would not provide surgeries, 24-hour care, or beds for overnight stays.

The North and Harlem site, which was a former Sears that was purchased by Novak Construction in September 2020 from Seritage Growth Properties, has a healthcare provider already lined up. That provider will be announced in the coming months, said Jake Paschen, senior vice president of Novak Construction.

“Our goal was to design a building that was an asset for many years,” Paschen said. “We wanted to get high-profile healthcare to the community, to offer quick and convenient care. We believe it was worth it to get this healthcare provider and they will be a tremendous asset to the community.”

The vacant lots sit on the western edge of the city between Austin’s Galewood neighborhood and the intersection of suburban River Forest, Oak Park and Elmwood Park. Neighbors were largely receptive to the changes being made, with one resident welcoming the hospital. He said lack of healthcare access would force him to often go to Northbrook for treatment.

“That area has been an eyesore so I’m glad that something is finally being done with it,” J. Bosco said. “I’m really excited for this; it will be a great addition to the community.

One resident, Charley Nelson, told Block Club he’s concerned about traffic coming from busy North Avenue. Nonetheless, he believes it is a net positive for the area.

“There’s so much potential for the North Ave. corridor and I hope that the Sears site can be a catalyst for the whole corridor’s development and livability,” Nelson said.

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