Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently joined Alderman Chris Taliaferro, Department of Planning and Development (DPD) Commissioner Maurice Cox, and representatives from Austin Coming Together (ACT), West Side Health Authority, BMO, and United Way of Metro Chicago for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Aspire Center in Austin.

Aspire Center GroundbreakingCity of Chicago

The $40.9M Invest South/West project is being led by Westside Health Authority, Austin Coming Together, and the Jane Addams Resource Corp., and it is supported by $12.25M in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) assistance approved by City Council last month. The Aspire Center will be housed in the former Robert Emmet Elementary School, a 69,100-square-foot building at 5500 W. Madison Ave., which closed in 2013.  

Aspire Center at 5500 W. MadisonLamar Johnson Collaborative

“When I first took office as Mayor, I made a commitment to Chicago residents that my administration would direct City resources back into neighborhoods that had been overlooked for decades,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “My INVEST South/West initiative was born out of that commitment, and today’s groundbreaking is the latest example of how my team has executed that vision. The programs and services that the Aspire Center offers will unlock countless career opportunities for Austin residents and support local entrepreneurs who want to create new businesses or expand existing businesses in this community. I look forward to seeing the day that Austin’s potential is fully realized, and I know that the Aspire Center’s presence here will hasten the arrival of that day.”  

Aspire Center at 5500 W. MadisonLamar Johnson Collaborative

With Lamar Johnson Collaborative serving as the architect, the Aspire Center will be a multi-use facility that includes an advanced manufacturing training center, small business incubator, community hub, and event space. Specific on-site services are planned to include job readiness and vocational training, financial coaching, and employment services. The project is anticipated to create 50 permanent jobs and train more than 2,000 workers over the next five years.

Aspire Center at 5500 W. MadisonLamar Johnson Collaborative

In December 2022, the West Side Health Authority’s POPFit! community plaza opened on a portion of the three-acre property shared by the Aspire Center through a $500,000 DPD Chicago Recovery Plan grant. The Aspire Center was selected to receive city support through the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD) Community Development Grant program. Austin Coming Together will operate a walk-in community hub in the new center to provide resources to anyone in need. Darrel Hackett, President, BMO Wealth Management-U.S., joined Mayor Lightfoot at the groundbreaking to celebrate the bank’s partnership with the city in supporting INVEST South/West projects. In addition to city support through the allocation of TIF funds, State Representative La Shawn K. Ford worked to secure $10M in state funds for the Aspire Center when the project was in its early stages.  

Initial construction on the future Aspire Center is currently underway and the project is expected to reach completion in late 2024.