Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot opens a 58-unit apartment complex on Wednesday, August 24, 2022. (Chicago Mayor’s Office)

Nearly two years after Mayor Lori Lightfoot unveiled her plan to reverse decades of divestment from the south and west sides, city officials pulled out the golden shovels and turned the first ceremonial divots on Wednesday.

The first of 10 developments planned under Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative to begin construction is a 58-unit apartment complex to be built near 79th and Green streets in Auburn Gresham. All apartments will be reserved for low- and middle-income Chicagoans, with rents ranging from $925 per month to $1,250 per month, officials said.

Maurice Cox, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Planning and Development, told Chicago Tonight on Wednesday that the original proposal called for a five-story building that drew heavy criticism from the community.

“The community felt it was out of context, too dense for a site, so we started over,” Cox said.

The revised proposal was “better for everyone,” Cox said.

The building at 838 W. 79th St. will include an AYO Foods store, which sells West African food, and the building at 757 W. 79th St. will include the new home of the KLEO Community Center and the Park Supper Club, said officials.

The $43 million development is expected to get about $39 million in city funding, including a discount on the sale price of the long-vacant land, which was owned by the city, officials said.

The project is a transit-oriented development, meaning it will only have 28 parking spaces.

Unveiled by Lightfoot in October 2020, Invest/South West has been derailed – along with the rest of the mayor’s agenda – by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has triggered economic collapse, record levels of violent crime and civil unrest. .

This has complicated the mayor’s ambitious efforts to address the root causes of crime, poverty and population loss in Chicago’s black and Latino neighborhoods.

The program calls on the city to spend $750 million in public funds by October to address fundamental issues that have plagued southern and western communities for decades, including lack of jobs and few places inviting places to shop, gather and have fun.

Invest South/West is betting that private investment will be attracted to Auburn Gresham, North Lawndale, Austin, Englewood, Humboldt Park, Quad Communities, New City, Roseland, South Chicago and South Shore by city investments, making “catalytic developments possible, officials said.

The program has attracted $2 billion in private investment, Lightfoot said Wednesday.

The program’s first agenda was to identify 12 commercial corridors in these communities that could serve “as focal points for pedestrian activities, shopping, transportation, public spaces and other quality-of-life amenities for residents. premises,” according to officials.

Before the end of the year, Invest South/West projects are expected to start in Englewood, Austin, Humboldt Park and North Lawndale, officials said.

The project’s inauguration turned into an impromptu campaign rally for Lightfoot, who is running for re-election against seven announced challengers. The hour-long event ended after Imagine Group director Torrey Barrett, one of the project’s developers, sparked a chant of “four more years” after endorsing Lightfoot’s re-election.

Lightfoot said she was “unapologetic” about her commitment to bringing new resources to the South and West Sides after decades “without a partner in the mayor’s office.”

Her voice rising and falling with emotion, Lightfoot again defended her decision to focus on developing the south and west sides to anonymous critics who she said urged her to follow the path set by former mayor Rahm. Emanuel and to focus on downtown.

“We knew we had to do the opposite of that,” Lightfoot said, adding that she was determined to ensure that residents on the South and West Sides lived in neighborhoods where the places to shop, work and play are within walking distance, like those on the north side.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]