A neglected former bank building on Chicago’s West Side will be brought back to life and incorporated into a new mixed-use complex, city officials announced last week.  

The $37.5 million project will rehabilitate the 1920s-era Laramie Bank at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue and redevelop surrounding vacant lots into a new six-story structure containing 72 units of mixed-income housing. The addition will be set back from the street to create a new community plaza along Chicago Avenue.

Designed by Architects Meyer & Cook in the Art Deco style, the original Laramie Bank building is notable for its ornate terra-cotta exterior. Although the structure is a protected Chicago landmark, a decade’s worth of vacancy and neglect has led to its inclusion on Preservation Chicago’s most endangered buildings list.

Under the plan, the historic landmark will once again house a bank branch as well as a cafe space, business incubator, and a museum dedicated to blues music. The development is expected to generate up to 150 construction jobs and 22 full-time positions.

The project is being led by Austin United Alliance, a design and development joint venture that includes Heartland Alliance, Oak Park Regional Housing Center, Latent Design, and Valerio Dewalt Train Associates.

The team's bid to redevelop the Austin site was selected by the city of Chicago as part of its $750 million INVEST South/West program, which aims to revitalize underserved communities on the city’s South and West sides. 

Other projects included in the first phase of the initiative are a community-focused ‘eco-food hub’ in Englewood and a 56-unit affordable housing development slated for a vacant lot in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. 

The next phase of INVEST South/West is seeking developer proposals to revitalize sites in Bronzeville, Back of the Yards, North Lawndale, and South Chicago.