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Wellness Community Hub Breaks Ground on Chicago’s Southwest Side

Elected officials, community leaders, and Academy for Global Citizenship (or AGC) school leadership joined together to commemorate the groundbreaking of the Cultivate Collective (Cultivate), a new community learning, sustainability, and wellness hub which will spur economic development on Chicago’s southwest side. The first phase of construction will house AGC’s existing public K-8 school, an early childhood center, community health care center, three-acre urban farm, neighborhood marketplace, six teaching kitchens, and a range of community wellness programs and amenities. Cultivate’s development is slated to be completed and open to the public by the fall of 2023.

“Turning long-vacant spaces into thriving community hubs is one of the cornerstones of our Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan, and I’m pleased to see the Academy of Global Citizenship mark another milestone in its journey to advance educational, environmental, economic and health justice for Illinois residents,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “The Academy is already proving itself a leader in ensuring the green economy is accessible for all communities, and I’m grateful for the organization’s partnership in bringing new jobs and opportunities to Chicago’s Southwest Side.”

Cultivate will create a holistic center of services for the community including minority workforce training focused on green jobs. Over 1,000 unionized Illinoisans will work on the project which is on track to produce more energy through clean renewable sources than it uses annually. The project is also expected to house 125 permanent positions upon its launch with a $58,350 median salary plus full benefits, in addition to providing skills-training and apprenticeships leading to economic mobility. Also notable is this development is the first in Illinois on track to join only 24 projects worldwide who are recognized by the International Living Futures Institute to achieve an unparalleled level of environmental sustainability and climate resiliency.

“School communities have a unique opportunity to foster the social-emotional wellbeing of students,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “This learning, sustainability, and wellness hub will do just that for students from our historically under-resourced communities. I’m grateful that the Academy for Global Citizenship continues to catalytically invest in our South Sides as well as the wellbeing of our city’s young people.”

Cultivate is a transformative project for Chicago’s southwest side set to serve a historically under-resourced, 96% minority constituency impacted by decades of disinvestment, social, environmental and racial injustice. The project is catalyzing neighborhood investment, focused on whole child wellness and environmental sustainability, which will generate local wealth, create jobs, and have a significant and sustained impact for generations. The project is located on six acres of the Chicago Housing Authority’s former LeClaire Courts site and will anchor the corner of 44th Street and Laporte Avenue in the LeClaire Courts neighborhood, just 1.5 miles north of Midway Airport.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring this innovative project to the southwest side of Chicago. Not only does it directly address community needs by expanding learning opportunities, increasing healthy food access, and adding public green spaces; it will also be a meaningful driver of economic growth through job creation and serving as a training hub.” said Alderperson  Michael D. Rodriguez, 22nd Ward.

The project will ultimately feature:

  • A training hub for minority workforce as a pipeline for the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) roll-out, including partnerships with HIRE360, Black Contractors Owners & Executives, Hispanic American Contractors Industry Association
  • Early childhood Head Start facility and K-8 public, IB, and Dual Language school
  • On-site Federally Qualified Health Care Center serving the entire community
  • Teacher training institute for public school teachers from across the city and state
  • Environmental education center to host field trips for students across the city and state
  • Fresh food marketplace, food pharmacy, and neighborhood café enabling food access
  • Six teaching kitchens, green spaces, walking trails, and community wellness facilities
  • Illinois’ first net-positive energy/water, climate-resilient and fossil-fuel-free demonstration site

“Today’s celebration is the result of nearly two decades of collaboration and dedication among thousands of individuals who have dreamed of a more sustainable and equitable future for all,” said Sarah Elizabeth Ippel, Founder and Executive Director of the Academy for Global Citizenship. “We’re so thrilled to see our collective vision for cultivating a resilient, just and thriving community come to life.”

Today’s groundbreaking celebration included a musical performance by AGC students, remarks from elected officials, land acknowledgment, yoga, and tree planting.  AGC currently serves nearly 500 local Chicago Public School students with a mission to empower all students to positively impact the community and the world beyond. Cultivate strongly addresses economic inequality through four key approaches:

  • Educational Opportunity (whole-child education, cradle-to-career, and multi-generational community learning);

  • Health Access (health care, fresh food, wellness facilities, and programming);

  • Economic Development (business incubation, job creation, skills training); and

  • Environmental Justice (clean air, energy resiliency, neighborhood nature space, inclusive participation in the green economy).

“As a former LeClaire Courts resident and someone who has lived in this community for 55 years, I am excited about AGC’s mission to cultivate the next generation of globally environmentally-minded leaders who are making our world a better place. We look forward to working with you to see this transformational project bring benefits to our community for generations to come,” said Joann Williams, President of the Hearst Community Organization.

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