Groundbreaking to be held for new business center in Austin

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On Wednesday, the Westside Health Authority and Austin Coming Together, joined by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Planning Department Commissioner Maurice Cox and representatives from BMO and ITW, will break ground on the new $40 million ASPIRE Center for Workforce Innovation.

The ASPIRE Center, located in the former Emmet Elementary School at 5500 W. Madison St., is designed to be a one-stop shop for support services and career training and will house the Jane Addams Resource Corp. and BMO.

It will also feature a café, community plaza, a rooftop terrace event space and the recently opened POPF!t park; the Westside Health Authority and Austin Coming Together plan to expand their core services at the center.

The Jane Addams Resource Corp. will provide free training in manufacturing, welding and mechanical assembly. Holistic services in career development and financial services also will be available, while BMO will provide retail banking services.

 The ASPIRE Center is part of the ASPIRE Initiative, which is focused on investing and developing infrastructure to support businesses and schools, revitalize housing and boost workforce development in Austin. The initiative builds on the community’s Austin Forward. Together quality-of-life plan, which is led by Austin Coming Together and Westside Health Authority while leveraging support from several other partners.

“The ASPIRE Center is the result of two years of community planning and engagement and will address multiple barriers that Austin residents face in training and accessing employment,” Morris Reed, executive director of Westside Health Authority, said in a statement.

Darnell Shields, executive director of Austin Coming Together, added: “By focusing on both career development and supportive services, the ASPIRE Center will improve the pathway to post-secondary education and jobs that provide a living wage.”

The ASPIRE Center will be in the former CPS Emmett Elementary School, one of about 50 schools across the city closed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The building architect is Lamar Johnson Collaborative; the general contractor is Sargent Blinderman; and the project management is through Project Management Advisors.

Over half of the costs are being funded through city and state funds, including $12.25 million in TIF money, and $10 million in state funding that state Rep. La Shawn K. Ford helped secure.

The project also received more than $20,000 in contributions from community residents and grant funds from the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, We Rise Together, The Chicago Community Trust, United Way of Metro Chicago, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Waddell Family Foundation and the The Joyce Foundation.

Additional supporters include BMO, ITW, CHASE, IFF, Cinnaire, Enterprise, the Chicago Community Loan Fund and the Chicago Development Fund.

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