BUILD’s Home Coming: A New Youth and Community Hub in Austin

Builds Home

CFF began a partnership with BUILD in 2020, and they quickly became integral to our place-based grantmaking focused on the Austin neighborhood. The culture of collaboration at BUILD runs deep. Staff are so adept at partnering with other organizations to create rich learning experiences for young people–whether that be Museum of Science and Industry advising on BUILD’s new Fab Lab, Revolution Workshop bringing the wood shop to life, or BUILD’s gardening students accessing paid apprenticeship opportunities at the Farm on Ogden. BUILD is the thread that ties all of these CFF partners together, and we are incredibly honored to support their efforts. With permission from BUILD, a detailed description of their expanded campus is below.

BUILD’s Home Coming: Grand Opening

By Danny Perez

On February 25, BUILD, a youth development anti-violence agency, opened its renovated Austin campus to the public, bringing to life a long-time community dream. Over 18 months, BUILD’s former 10,000 square foot offices were transformed into a city block haven where youth on Chicago’s west side can be safe and engage BUILD’s many integrated services in one place – from art and sports to mental health care and workforce development.

The campus will be a vital resource to the wider community, offering free Wi-Fi, a café, affordable workspaces, and meeting rooms.

“BUILD has been working with youth on Chicago’s west side for more than fifty years,” said Adam Alonso, CEO, BUILD. “To save lives from violence you need to offer hope, support, and opportunity. We wanted to create a space that offered all three.”

Designed by architects Landon Bone Baker and UJAMAA Construction, the new campus will offer the youth of Austin specialized facilities to help them discover talents, explore careers, and build positive relationships with mentors and friends. Highlights include:

  • A gym, track, and fitness center with locker rooms, private showers, and laundry
  • Public café powered by Momentum Coffee, open to the public in the lobby
  • STEM workshops: a Fab Lab™ Makers Lab, wood shop, computer lab
  • Kitchen gardens and greenspace: an acre of gardens, fruit trees, chickens, and a three-season Outdoor Education Center
  • Art studios and galleries, recording studio, and performance space
  • Free, high-speed Wi-Fi throughout the campus, and a Comcast Lift Zone
  • The Peace and Justice Center: a space for community engagement, civics education, conflict mediation and restorative justice practice in the neighborhood

“For me personally, I hope it can help me grow as a person and how I feel and where I want to be in life,” says Nikya Harrell, a member of BUILD’s Youth Council and Austin native. “Sometimes you feel lost after leaving high school, I feel like this is a place to find yourself.”

Her friend Tamyjah agrees. “I hope it can bring the community together – not only the children, but the adults. And I hope we can keep this building safe and comfortable for everybody.”

Their fellow youth council member Ethan Johnson puts it more simply: “It is honestly amazing.”

BUILD’s youth programming is incorporated across Chicago’s west side, partnering with more than 22 elementary and high schools in the Austin, Garfield Park, Humboldt Park and Hermosa neighborhoods, and in active crisis response in the community. The renovated campus in Austin will establish a new home base, available to all enrolled youth and families. Between the new Bakalar Youth Center and renovated STEAM education center, it will increase BUILD’s on-site capacity from serving 100 to potentially over 1,000 youth at once.

Once enrolled, all services and sessions are free, and BUILD plans to make the space as accessible to the neighborhood as possible. Youth programs will start in March, and then starting in April, the campus will be open to community weekdays from 8am-2pm, dedicated to youth services from 3-7pm, and open again to community until 9pm. By spring break those hours will extend to Saturday, and by summer BUILD hopes to stay open past midnight.

Even as the pandemic increased the urgency of the project, it also threatened to slow it down. However, a determined coalition of partners and donors pushed it to completion. BUILD will always be grateful for their generous collaboration: Revolution Workshop, Columbia College, the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and STRYV365 will all be partners in programming, and companies Sloan, Boelter, X3, Power Plate and CAROL bike have all donated time and equipment to our kitchen, bathrooms, and fitness lab. Major investors in the project include the United Way of Metro Chicago, the Chicago Community Trust’s We Rise Together initiative, BMO, the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, the Caerus Foundation, BUILD’s own staff, and many additional private individuals.