West Side

‘It's a Game Changer': New Youth Community Center Set to Open on Chicago's West Side

The 51,000 square-foot facility will have art and music studios, a large gym and fitness center and much more, allowing the organization BUILD to expand their youth and workforce development programs

NBC Universal, Inc.

A new youth and community center will soon open its doors on Chicago's west side. It's a major project by non-profit organization BUILD that could become a game changer for youth in the area.

The facility is taking shape on the corner of Harrison Street and Laramie Avenue in the South Austin neighborhood, where the organization's CEO Adam Alonso gave NBC 5's Sandra Torres an early tour. The project been in the works since 2017 and, while it's still under construction, it's set to open early 2023.

"The first week it went up, the community was like, 'What’s going on? It’s really happening?'" Alonso said.

The campus will include art and music studios, performance spaces, a youth lounge, a large gym with multiple basketball hoops, an elevated track and fitness center. It even incudes a commercial kitchen space and a woodworking shop, both of which will be used for the organization's workforce development programs.

"Revolution workshop, another non-profit here on the West Side, are partnering with us so they’re going to train our middle school, high school young people on woodworking and how to use tools," Alonso said.

The project is part of BUILD's plan to get kids and teens involved in its development programs at an early age. The organization initially started as a gang intervention program in 1969, and while that's still a big part of BUILD, its mission has evolved to focus on violence prevention.

With the new facility, the organization said it will expand its after-school programs with the hopes of giving children on the West Side a bright future.

"One of my staff members put it this way and it shook me when he said … we need to cut off the next generation shooter," Alonso said. "We are stopping this violent cycle, so how are we getting in? How do we help these young people so they don’t turn into next generation shooter or the next victim? We want them to be successful and be the next president, lawyer, doctor."

That's why the new youth and community center will be a beneficial addition to the Austin Neighborhood.

"Just talking to our young people, they say, 'Is this really for us?' and that’s just sad. I wanted to cry in that moment because why wouldn't it be for you? You deserve this," Alonso said. "Every young person deserves to have these sorts of facilities, especially when you live in neighborhoods that are so disinvested."

Approximately 2,000 students currently participate in BUILD's programs and they're all eagerly waiting for the facility to open.

BUILD said it plans to keep the facility running during the day so community members can also take advantage of what the center has to offer.

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