The Laramie State Bank building in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood has been an “endangered art deco gem” of the West Side since becoming vacant in 2012.
Built at 5200 W. Chicago Avenue in 1929 the exuberant three-story bank was opened to great fanfare at the end of a decade when Austin’s population was thriving. The redevelopment of the historic Laramie State Bank in Austin is now making strides toward starting in the spring of 2023, with tenants moving in by 2025.
Having been voted one of Chicago’s 7 most endangered buildings by Preservation Chicago in 2019, the beloved building has finally been given a lifeline. The building will be renovated to include office space, retail, and a bank branch, along with a brand-new 78-unit, six-story building that includes a public plaza on vacant land adjacent to the building.
Of the seven proposals put forward by developers and community organizations, The Chicago Department of Planning and Development chose the project presented by Austin United Alliance – a collaboration between Oak Park Regional Housing Center, Latent Design, and Heartland Alliance.
The iconic West Side landmark and several lots that surround it will now be the subject of a $37.5 million redevelopment project as part of the INVEST South/West initiative. While the bank’s distinctive facade and features will be preserved, the interior will undergo a huge revamp to accommodate community needs and bring the building’s safety and modern amenities up to scratch.
The proposal’s updates will also include a change to the mixed-use building’s exterior. The first-floor parking garage which is more visible from the street will be reconstructed closer to the height of the bank. Then, the community room will be moved closer to the plaza, while the plaza design includes swinging gates that will close at night in order to form a fence.
The winning plan encompasses several new purposes for the building’s 10,000 square feet of commercial space. A museum honoring Chicago artists’ contribution to blues music is the headline move but the building will also house a co-working space, a locally-owned coffee shop, and a business incubator to support emerging entrepreneurs while the building will still house a bank to help improve local access to financial services.
On city-owned land adjacent to the building a block of 70+ affordable housing units will be built separated by a courtyard containing a community plaza, public art installations, and gardens.
Out of the 78 units, 45 will be rents affordable to residents that are earning at least 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) while six will be affordable to tenants earning at least 50% AMI. Then, the rest of them will be sold at the market rate.
Planning department commissioner Maurice Cox said “There is literally nothing like it anywhere else in Chicago. … It will be a fitting anchor to the evolving soul city corridor.” Mayor Lori Lightfoot, meanwhile, declared it “a milestone in our city’s journey of improvement from the inside out by empowering residents to become changemakers within their communities.”
They also plan to work with artists and residents to put together an arts and culture committee around the space and the larger area. It’s great to see that this exuberant three-story art-deco building, and its spectacular details, have finally been given a lifeline, and we can’t wait to see it brought back to its former glory, with a new twist.
[Featured image from Twitter / @glegozpics]