2023 Landmarks Illinois Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse
When 79th Street was still a bustling commercial area in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood, 839 W. 79th St. was home to Rusnak Furniture store. In the 1970s, the building became a lackluster public aid office that reflected the disinvestment the community faced during the Great Migration, segregation, white flight and Urban Renewal. The building, originally constructed in 1926, sat vacant for 30 years until Carlos Nelson and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC) redeveloped it with the input of more than 1,000 local residents. The Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub provides everyday essentials in one place: healthy food, healthcare, social services, banking, WiFi access, vocational training and a community meeting space. The reuse of the 0.7-acre site has sparked economic development in the area and created over 150 jobs. The project also encouraged a plethora of new development including anew Metra station, a restaurant, two affordable housing complexes, a repurposed bank, school buildings, a pharmacy and several stores. Landmarks Illinois proudly awarded GAGDC funding through our Timuel D. Black, Jr. Grant Fund for Chicago’s South Side to support the project. And, because the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub received a Community Development Block Grant, the rehabilitation scope underwent a Section 106 historic design review by the Illinois State Historic Preservation Office.
(Photo credit: © Tom Harris / Courtesy of MKB Architects)