Community leaders break ground on Aspire Center, new workforce development hub, business incubator, and community space in Austin

Chicago Construction News staff writer

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and representatives from Austin Coming Together (ACT), West Side Health Authority, BMO, United Way of Metro Chicago and Illinois Tool Works (ITW) gathered last week for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Aspire Center in Austin.

The $40.9 million project will include Aspire Center housed in the former Robert Emmet Elementary School, a 69,100-square-foot building at 5500 W. Madison Ave., which closed in 2013.

The Aspire Center will be a multi-use facility that includes an advanced manufacturing training center, small business incubator, community hub, and event space. Initial construction on the future Aspire Center is currently underway and the project is expected to reach completion in late 2024.

West Side Health Authority owns and is leading the renovation of the former Emmet Elementary building and will co-manage the completed facility with Austin Coming Together. Lamar Johnson Collaborative serves as the architect for the project.

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.

“United Way is proud to work alongside the community leaders — including our longtime partner Darnell Shields and Austin Coming Together — who are making the strategies set forth in the Austin Quality-of-Life-Plan a reality,” said Sean Garrett, United Way of Metro Chicago President and CEO. “Our investment in the Aspire Center marks the most significant investment in our organization’s history, which was made possible because of the many donors and partners who believe in this work and the vision that real, transformative change can and will happen.”


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