Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub, Chicago

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)

Project Principals

  • Carlos Nelson and the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation, Owner
  • Jack Kelley and MKB Architects, Architect
  • Teresa Prim and Prim Lawrence Group


(Photo credit: Rudd Resources)

*Above list is provided by nominators. Don’t see your company listed but worked on this project? Let us know! Email lwills (at)


Carlos Nelson and GAGDC, Owner

The Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub is important to GAGDC because it is a vibrant convergence of economic investment and health and wellness for a community long impacted by divestment. The Healthy Hub breathes new life with various options for community members and neighborhood partners.

This place of health and prosperity is important because it offers quality services that Auburn Gresham members would otherwise need to travel outside the community to receive. Instead of a bus ride or drive to partake in the everyday essentials, residents can find them in one place.

The Hub is important in making our business corridors pedestrian-friendly. GAGDC felt it essential to repurpose the building and model its adaptive reuse and sustainability, considering the building was constructed during the development of the bungalow era. This place is vital in maintaining and attracting homeowners. Because of the resurrection of the 839 West 79th St. building, Auburn Gresham has become a place to run to versus a place to run from.


(Photo credit: Norma Sanders)


Carlos Nelson and GAGDC, Owner

The Healthy Hub’s impact on Auburn Gresham is endless. It represents the beginning of the end of divestment. Catalytic in nature, the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub has sparked a fire of other developments, including but not limited to the creation of a new Metra Station, Jerk Villa Bar & Grill, two affordable housing complexes, a cannabis store, a renewable energy and farming campus, a reimagined Save A Lot, a reactivated CVS, a repurposed Bank of America and Calumet High School buildings.

This community has been a food desert, a banking desert, and, more recently, a pharmacy desert. The Hub has answered the call to these conditions. From its inception, the Hub incubated a produce stand during the winter and spring, offering fresh, locally grown, organic fruits and vegetables.

The Healthy Hub has also allowed for “pop-ups” for small businesses to showcase their products and services. The Healthy Hub contains a guarded Bank of America Advanced Center and will soon have a pharmacy. Also, two restaurants will soon open at the Hub, offering a sit-down dining experience where there currently is none. Helping to bridge the digital divide, residents can visit the Hub and use free WiFi.

Insured and uninsured patients can find help with services offered by UI Health, including behavioral health, family medicine, HIV/AIDS Care, obstetrics and gynecology, onsite medical laboratory, pediatrics, prenatal care, primary care, women’s health and dental services. The Hub serves a vocational need, providing dental assistance training at the low cost of $300.


(Photo credit: Auburn Gresham Development Corporation)

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