The Mildred Wiley Wellness Hub was awarded $2.5 million in funding as a recipient of a Community Development Grant. Planned by Bethel New Life, the development will transform a portion of their campus in Austin located at 4950 W. Thomas.
Designed by WJW Architects, the project will create a holistic health and education center for residents of Austin and neighboring communities. The Horticenter and sunroom components, led by Bethel New Life, will serve as a community garden, educational center and gathering space, while the new 10,000 square foot health center will expand ACCESS’ physical and behavioral health services for the community.
With Austin being the largest community area in Chicago by land area with the second largest population, investment in the health and well-being of its residents is just as important as its economic vitality. In Austin, higher poverty rates, racial health disparities, and limited access to care providers all contribute to community health outcomes that are consistently poorer than national benchmarks. The MWWH will expand health care services (including behavioral health), increase access to healthy food, and provide job training and support for entrepreneurs.
The project’s kitchen will also be used to teach pathways to culinary careers for youth and adults and be available for rental by local food entrepreneurs. The exterior will include a community garden with 13 raised planters for growing vegetables to be used by campus residents as well as a variety of socialization and gathering spaces for community events and educational programming. The Horticenter will also include a ground floor patio and rooftop terrace. The sunroom will provide dedicated utility space for the over 200 senior residents on campus, allowing the distribution of produce and other nutritional activities from the garden and provides a welcoming connection between the residences on campus and the new Horticenter.
The total estimated cost of the project is $5.4 million. Bethel New Life has already secured a $200,000 Austin Fresh grant, designed to improve access to fresh food in the Austin community. In addition, there is a $750,000 Community Project Funding request included in the proposed Federal funding bill at the direction of Congressman Danny Davis. The receipt of the $2.5 million in Community Development Grant funding will help get the project closer to full funding.