“South Side healthy living center will soon open on 79th Street, bringing neighborhood essentials to the community, nearly two years after winning a $10 million citywide prize. The Healthy Lifestyle Hub, 839 W. 79th St., will open July 29, said Carlos Nelson, director of the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation.
“The four-story Healthy Lifestyle Hub will house a myriad of tenants, including Mikkey’s Retro Grill, Bank of America, UI Health, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Illinois and a UIC Neighborhood Center. The Illinois Tollway will train Black and Brown community members at the hub for jobs with the organization, Nelson said.
“A UI Health Clinic and Urgent Care Center will occupy the entire second floor and a portion of the third. The clinic will offer medical, dental and mental health services. It’s expected to serve more than 30,000 patients per year, Nelson said.
“A high-tech kitchen and training center sponsored by the Chicago Bears will open on the first floor, giving local chefs, neighbors and students a place to master healthy cooking. A cafe has already been built to house a local coffee shop. The hub will also offer free wifi throughout the building.
“Nelson said the best charm of all will be the 18-by-18-foot windows on the first floor. The oversized windows will “bring in light and light up 79th Street and Auburn Gresham, figuratively and literally,” Nelson said.
“The site of the hub was once home to the Rusnak Bros. Furniture Store and Showroom, which opened in 1925. The building had bricked-in windows on almost every floor with ground-floor retail, Nelson said.
“In the 1970s, the building became a dark public aid office with no windows, Nelson said. For years, the building stood vacant. But once the development corporation got to work, they used ‘a lot of money and a lot of time’ to restore it and add something new. They took ‘painstaking measures to preserve the terra cotta of this building’ and ‘cored out’ the center of the building to add an elevator, Nelson said. They also ‘blasted out windows’ on every floor, he said.
“In 2020, the Healthy Lifestyle Hub was the winner of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation’s $10 million Chicago Prize. The hub also received $4 million from the city’s Invest South/West program. The Bears donated more than $600,000 to power the high-tech kitchen, Nelson said. Companies like Whirlpool and Kohler donated appliances and fixtures for the bathrooms and offices, as well.
“‘Almost 30 graduating classes at Leo High School have walked past this bricked-up vacant building, and it became a backdrop of their existence,’ Nelson said. ‘For me, it was important for us to design this from a standpoint that says, ‘Hey, kids, we live in a place that is just like the West Loop.'” (Reed, Block Club Chicago, 7/8/22)
Auburn Gresham’s Healthy Lifestyle Hub Will Open This Month On 79th Street, Bringing New Life To A Long-Vacant Building; The hub will bring a pharmacy, doctor’s office, bank, restaurant and a Chicago Bears-backed teaching kitchen to the South Side community, which has been devastated by closures and vacant storefronts, Atavia Reed, Block Club Chicago, 7/8/22