The 92-year-old endangered art-deco gem has finally been given a life-line.
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 population was thriving. 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 vacant bank will now be redeveloped into a museum celebrating the history of Chicago blues, a business incubator, and a café it was announced earlier this week.
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 winning proposal beat the likes of West Side Health Authority, who sought to turn the building into African-American Culture, a proposal from the Austin non-profit organization New Moms, and others that included “some mix of affordable housing and retail, with many proposals featuring art hubs and business incubators.”
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 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 whilst 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 that will contain a community plaza, public art installations, and gardens.
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.”
This exuberant three-story art-deco building, and its spectacular details, has finally been given a lifeline, and we can’t wait to see it brought back to its former glory.
[Featured image from Twitter / @glegozpics]