The Pritzker Traubert Foundation has announced Always Growing Auburn Gresham as the inaugural recipient of the $10 million Chicago Prize, a competition aimed at identifying a compelling community investment that benefits residents of the city's South or West Sides.
The winning team — which comprises the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation (GAGDC), Green Era Partners, and Urban Growers Collective — proposed two investment-ready capital projects designed to reinvigorate the South Side neighborhood of Auburn Gresham. Drawn directly from the neighborhood's community-driven Quality-of-Life Plan, the projects will work to transform two vacant city blocks into vibrant and welcoming community spaces, create more than three hundred construction jobs and three hundred permanent professional jobs, provide equitable access to health care for the neighborhood's residents, and offer significant entrepreneurial opportunities.
Anchored by a full-service health and wellness center, the first project, the Healthy Lifestyle Hub, will provide physical, oral, and mental health care for eleven thousand individuals as well as health education and supportive services for the broader community. The second project, the Green Era Renewable Energy and Urban Farm Campus, will feature a greenhouse space where up to twenty-six thousand pounds of produce annually will be grown and harvested. The initiative gives GAGDC a financial stake in the anaerobic digestor enterprise on the campus and allows for a share of its profits to be reinvested in the community.
Launched in April 2019 in partnership with Lever for Change, an affiliate of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the prize competition received more than eighty applications and selected six community-based projects as finalists in December. In conjunction with the prize announcement, the foundation announced a $2.5 million matching fund with the aim of raising a total of $5 million in support of the other five finalists: the Aspire Initiative: Building A Stronger Cradle-to-Career Pipeline in Austin; Go Green on Racine: An Englewood Rising Project; Creating a Solidarity Economy: Centro de Solidaridad Mi Villita; Now Is the Time: Advancing North Lawndale Together; and We're Steel Here: Working Together to Reinvigorate South Chicago.
"One of the [things] that was extraordinary about this process was that a lot of it took place during the COVID pandemic as well as the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd," said Chicago Community Trust president and CEO Helene Gayle, who served on the prize committee, "and so these leaders were on one hand having to face these tremendous challenges within their communities while they were continuing to develop a proposal that thought about the longer-term needs."