“A vacant West Side bank will be redeveloped into a café, a business incubator, and a museum celebrating the history of Chicago blues, city officials announced Monday.
“The Laramie State Bank building at 5200 W. Chicago Ave. was selected to anchor investment and revitalization efforts in Austin as part of the city’s INVEST South/West program. City leaders chose the proposal from Austin United Alliance — a team of developers, architects and designers led by Heartland Alliance, Oak Park Regional Housing and Latent Design — to redevelop the 92-year-old bank building.
“‘“It’s a milestone in our city’s journey of improvement from the inside out by empowering residents to become changemakers within their communities,’ Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
“The $37.5 million redevelopment will preserve the bank’s notable architecture but rehab its interior to suit several community needs. The building still will house a bank to improve access to financial services for residents in the areas as well as a café and an incubator to support emerging entrepreneurs and attract businesses to the corridor.
“A museum honoring the contributions of Chicago artists to blues music also will be launched inside the building, aligning with efforts to rebrand Chicago Avenue as Soul City Corridor by the Austin African American Business Network Association.
“Plans also include several lots surrounding the old bank building, which will be developed into 72 units of mixed-income housing. There will also be a courtyard between the bank building and the housing complex that will include a community plaza, gardens, and several public art installations, developers said.
“This is part of how we can use design as a tool to undo some of the spatial and systemic injustices that we see,” said Katherine Darnstadt, founder of Latent Design.
“The Laramie State Bank building has been vacant since it was foreclosed on in 2012. Despite many deferred maintenance issues, the former bank’s Art Deco architecture and long history in the area has made it a designated Chicago Landmark.
“‘There is literally nothing like it anywhere else in Chicago. … It will be a fitting anchor to the evolving soul city corridor,’ planning department commissioner Maurice Cox said.” (Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 3/8/21)
This is an ideal development project for INVEST South/West and we strongly applaud Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox for selecting Laramie State Bank for the program. We recognize and applaud their strong leadership in ensuring a outstanding outcome for the building and community, and their commitment and efforts to strongly reinvest in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
Preservation Chicago has been advocating for Laramie State Bank building for many years, but with more urgency since it became vacant after its 2012 foreclosure. It was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2019. We have attended many building court hearings to provide support for the building. We been in regular communication with the owners and stakeholders with ties to the building, including the alderman and Cook County Land Bank. We have attempted to find private developers with an interest in tackling this restoration and reuse of this building. We’re thrilled the City has stepped forward. This is a outstanding outcome for the building.
A West Side Landmark Will Be Redeveloped Into A Museum, Cafe And Business Incubator; The city chose the project to give new life to Austin’s Laramie State Bank as part of the INVEST South/West initiative. Plans also call for housing to be built nearby, Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago, 3/8/21
An encouraging start to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program; It’s good to see City Hall making a serious attempt to revitalize Chicago’s historically neglected South and West side commercial areas, Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 3/9/21