WIN: Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub Celebrates Grand Opening in Long-Vacant Rusnak Brothers Store

The Healthy Lifestyle Hub of Greater Auburn Gresham / formerly the Rusnak Brothers Furniture Store and Showroom, 1925, 839 W. 79th Street. Rendering Credit: Prim Lawrence Group

“Carlos Nelson used to drive past the ‘lifeless’ building at 839 W. 79th St. almost every day for years.

“Home to a drab public aid office in the 1970s, city officials bricked over the 18-by-18-foot windows on the ground floor and boarded up the second and third floor windows when the office closed. The nearly 100-year-old terra cotta building sat vacant for decades — but Nelson saw potential for revival.

“After seven years of work, Nelson looked on Friday as Auburn Gresham’s four-story Healthy Lifestyle Hub w24.elcomed dozens of neighbors with a Hollywood red carpet, live music and healthy food.

“Community leaders and local officials cut the ribbon in October but Friday’s extravaganza was for neighbors to roam the halls for the first time, said Nelson, executive director at the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.

“A ‘dark and dismal’ sight in Auburn Gresham is now a beacon of light offering medical care, nutritious food, community space and other services steps away from neighbors’ homes, Nelson said.

“‘I used to see this building and the boarded-up windows, and it hurt to think of what others thought about our people,’ Nelson said. ‘When I visualized the Healthy Hub, I wanted to be able to bring life into this building. We wanted to light up 79th Street, literally and figuratively. Today is a day of excitement.’

“The Healthy Lifestyle is proof if you give a neighborhood the proper resources, ‘we can make great things happen,’ Nelson said.

“The South Side development corporation received $4 million from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program in 2020 to create the lifestyle hub. Months later, the project won the first ever Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s $10 million Chicago Prize to bring the vision closer to reality.

“Now, the healthy living center will encourage others to see the greatness that thrives in the neighborhood, Nelson said.

“‘The Healthy Lifestyle Hub lets neighbors know that Auburn Gresham is a place where they need to grow their roots, reinvest and raise their families,’ Nelson said. ‘I want people to tell their kids and grandkids about this so people can look at Auburn Gresham, see a beautiful brick bungalow community, and say, ‘Alright, let’s invest here. Let’s grow our families and build wealth here.'” (Reed, Block Club Chicago, 11/15/22)


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