Our New Campus

About the Project

Our Mission: BUILD inspires hope and offers opportunities so youth facing systemic obstacles can achieve positive futures.

We are a nationally respected gang intervention, violence prevention, and youth development organization based on Chicago’s West Side. The City’s epidemic of gun violence has greatly increased the need for our services. As a result, BUILD has experienced rapid growth over the past few years – and we are now out of space.

We know what our young people need, and we will not fail them or turn them away simply because we have outgrown our current facilities. BUILD THE FUTURE is abold $24 million campaign to help thousands more young people across the city, strengthening them and all the neighborhoods we serve, by dramatically expanding our facilities, capacity, and programming into a West Side community campus that stands for promise and opportunity, and every child’s right to achieve their potential.We will renovate our existing 11,000 square foot building in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, add an additional 40,000 square feet, and remake the surrounding green space on our full city block site.

Highlights of the BUILD Campus Transformation:

  • Expanded hours and days to serve youth and the community
  • Expanded capacity from 100 at the current site, to 2,000 in the new campus
  • Full-sized, climate controlled gym, track, and fitness center
  • Art studios and classrooms, galleries, performance spaces, and fully-equipped recording studio
  • Makers lab, woodshop, and computing center, all hosting new workforce programs
  • Youth lounges and homework spaces
  • Mental health center will offer expanded services to youth and their families
  • Public cafe and community garden
  • New greenspace, play field, and outdoor community event space

The Wood Shop will house machinery and other equipment for students to learn engineering, woodworking and construction skills. In collaboration with Revolution Workshop, this space will support a major workforce development program for Chicago’s youth.

Suite will be home to BUILD’s music programs, in-house recording studio and BUILD Radio Podcast. Digital media tools, acoustic instruments and sound editing technology.

Benefits and Growth

While this campus transformation is technically a brick-and-mortar project, it is a direct investment in community infrastructure that has implications and effects far beyond BUILD. Expanded and enhanced space, extended days and hours (7 days per week, 6am-midnight), and a 30% increase in BUILD's staff will increase all of our efforts to reduce youth violence, improve physical and emotional health, provide outlets for artistic expression, and support academic success. However, this center will also provide a major symbolic and economic boost to Austin, loudly expressing our belief in Austin’s young people and permanently amplifying the impact of many community partners.

This is the path to happier, healthier young people, and how we become a catalyst for a revitalized, stronger Austin.

Impact to BUILD

At full strength, BUILD serves about 2,500 youth consistently – youth enrolled in programs, with a custom care plan, a dedicated case manager who keeps track of the many different activities that youth is involved with. In non-pandemic times, BUILD also hosted/plans to host again over 50 community events a year, from sports and games to harvest days and art nights. These were invaluable opportunities to engage and connect with youth before they formally enrolled with BUILD, and with a full event calendar the total number of youth engaged could raise to 4-5,000, with additional family and community members pushing that number even higher.

While all of BUILD’s current work will continue, with additional space and new specialized facilities key programs will also expand in the following crucial ways.

Physical Health, Nutrition, and Fitness

Our campus will include a new Gym, Track, and Fitness Center for youth and community members. From kids on the basketball court to community seniors on the walking track to people of all ages working out in the fitness center, intergenerational health will be encouraged. We will also promote Farm to Table eating by connecting the 1,000-lb harvest from the Iris Garden to the kitchen and new café.

Clinical Mental Health Care/Case Management

BUILD's Clinical Services will have permanently dedicated rooms for intake, individual and group work - no more borrowing staff offices, being bumped by other programs, or holding sessions on benches outside. The new mental health center will be integrated directly into the youth lounge and community spaces, removing any stigma around receiving care and making services available to the wider public. Additionally, specialized shared space will support broader case management work connecting families to services like domestic violence care, court advocates and legal counseling, relocation and rental assistance – as well as alternative expressive therapy treatments, such as movement, meditation, art therapeutics, and more.

Workforce Development

BUILD will offer group and individual lessons in a range of instruments (piano, percussion, guitars), voice, spoken word, electronic music, and sound mixing - all feeding a busy performance calendar of teaching artists, youth shows, and open mics. We anticipate DJ sets on weekends, open community studio nights, and exhibits of local artists. Multipurpose rooms and the gym can all be set up for performances.

Violence Reduction/Intervention

BUILD will expand the hours of our safe and welcoming space to midnight, all seven days. Through events like "midnight basketball" and late-night movies, and by hosting support group meetings, conflict mediations, peace circles, and simple free time in a restful place, BUILD anti-violence mentors will be able to connect with hundreds more youth each week.

Music and the Arts

Building futures (workforce training): To help youth build futures, we will offer programs that not only help youth imagine and explore possible futures and careers, but also develop the fundamental skills and interests that will ensure seamless transitions to professional skills and certification programs.

  • Creative Arts: The Makers' Lab and expanded Art Studio will allow for a much broader Brand BUILD, our creative entrepreneurship program around jewelry and other creative product lines. The technology tools in the art program plus a digital recording studio will provide invaluable experience in graphic design, audio engineering, and artistic creation.
  • Revolution Workshop will provide a direct path to accreditation in skilled carpentry and construction trades.
  • Inspiration Kitchens will provide training in culinary skills and customer foodservice in our commercial kitchen.
  • Metro Edge Development Partners will bring strong IT infrastructure to the community, and the opportunity for youth to train in data center support careers.

Impact to the Community: “The Ripple Effect”

BUILD can no longer grow our programs without new space. But what makes an investment in this infrastructure even more powerful is the additional ripple effects it will have across the whole community: creating jobs, supporting partners, and serving members of the community.

Job Creation and Economic Development

Right away, the actual construction of our campus (starting September 1, 2021) will bring construction jobs and workers to the neighborhood, including some graduates of our skilled trades workforce development partner, Revolution Workshop. Our own staff will also grow starting in the summer of 2022, as BUILD expands its services, facilities, and hours, ranging from facilities management to additional clinical staff. Additionally, we will be able to hire many more young people part-time each summer through One Summer Chicago and throughout the year to serve as greeters and mentors to other youth.

In the even longer term, the new facilities in the BUILD campus will finally allow us to host and launch meaningful workforce development programs for older youth and emerging adults – while also setting those programs up for success by exposing younger youth to these opportunities, earlier. Our new recording studio will support extensive training and experience in digital media, audio production, and sound design. As itemized above, partner Revolution Workshop will run a program in our woodshop to provide a direct path to accreditation in skilled carpentry and construction trades. Inspiration Kitchens will use our commercial kitchen to provide training in culinary skills and customer foodservice. And Metro Edge Development Partners will not only bring strong IT infrastructure to the community, but will use our Makers’ and Computing Labs to train youth in data center support careers.

As programs evolve, we also hope that our kitchen and café will serve as an engine to support local food and catering entrepreneurs, giving them access to the commercial kitchen space they need to expand their businesses, as well as a “storefront” to sell their creations and services. Having a collection of food service experts and providers working steadily in the kitchen may also represent an opportunity for BUILDers to learn the skills of foodservice, customer service, and entrepreneurship.

Supporting Partners

Austin lacks safe and usable spaces, indoors and outdoors, period. Even rarer are affordable spaces that are heated or cooled, with power and reliable wifi. We will meet this need and provide common spaces for our organizational partners to meet, collaborate, and organize. From domestic violence services, childcare referrals, support and counseling groups, block clubs, political action groups, local elected officials and more – we designed the new BUILD’s meeting spaces so that partners can come in to work with us, and each other.

Spotlight: the Peace and Justice Center

BUILD has been working with a large community team for over three years to bring a restorative justice court to Austin, to help divert non-violent criminals away from the traditional justice system and rebuild trust in the midst of conflict. When we are assigned a judge by the city, the court will hold all proceedings at BUILD. In the meantime, the team’s work continues in the form of BUILD’s Peace and Justice Center (PJC). With BUILD as a central hub, this team is still meeting and working to build West Side capacity for restorative justice advocacy, organizing, shaping community policing strategy, and increasing civic engagement through group work, training, and outreach.

List of Partners:
Partners in the Peace & Justice Center

  • Assoc. of Local Service Organizations
  • Austin Coming Together
  • By the Hand Club
  • Chicago Neighborhood Policing Initiative (NPI)
  • Chicago Police Department
  • CPD Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy CAPS for 15th, 25th, & 11th Districts
  • Chicago Public Schools
  • City Colleges of Chicago
  • Community Justice for Youth
  • Compassionate Citizens Illinois
  • Cook Cty. Juvenile Temporary Detention Ctr.
  • Heartland Alliance
  • Hope Community Church
  • Illinois State’s Attorney
  • Institute for Non-Violence
  • Justice Advisory Council
  • Justice Renewal Initiative
  • Juvenile Intervention & Support Center
  • KL Morton Enterprises
  • Leaders Network
  • Mothers on a Mission
  • Nehemiah Trinity Rising (NTR)
  • Our Resilience
  • The Policing Project
  • Restore Justice
  • South Austin Neighborhood Association
  • Taproots
  • Westside Health Authority
  • Westside Rising

Serving the Community

Austin lacks many common mechanisms of community life: cafes, event spaces, performance spaces, fitness centers, and more. With the expansion of our campus and the extension of hours to midnight, BUILD hopes to meet these needs and be a community hub. While we are directly serving community youth and families, we also hope our facilities will be well-used more generally by our neighbors.

Community Fitness:

Adult citizens of Austin are eager to use BUILD’s new indoor fitness center, and to have a safe space to exercise and walk all year long.

Cafe, and Farm-to-Table food:

BUILD’s cafe will nearly be the only public café in South Austin, and we look forward to it becoming a popular, intergenerational community meeting spot in the neighborhood – ideally featuring produce and eggs from our Iris Garden. With nearly 1,000 lbs of food harvested each season and food distribution collaborations underway with Farmer’s Fridge, Jewel-Osco, and other food partners, we are already a significant provider of food to the neighborhood, and our café will greatly amplify our ability to serve.

Lift Zone Community Wi-Fi:

We are already a designated Comcast partner for providing stable, lightning-fast, fiber-based wi-fi to communities underserved by technology infrastructure. Our new campus will be a safe place to get a reliable internet connection (and charge devices), free to anyone who needs it.

Sharing Music and Art:

As BUILD’s own music and art programs expand in this new facility, we envision a busy performance calendar of teaching artists, youth shows, and open mics - even student DJ sets as a soundtrack for open gym nights and other family festivals. With thousands of new square feet of gallery and studio space, we also look forward to hosting open community art studio nights, youth exhibitions, as well as theater shows, film festivals, and movie nights.

Outdoor Celebrations and Festivals:

Whenever the weather allows, we will take celebrations, performances, and gatherings outdoors to engage more people. Concerts will move outside when they can, movies will screen in the protected Northeast courtyard, our Art Academy team will lead public art works and sidewalk murals. Building on the past success of street fests like Summer of Opportunity, we envision hosting festivals and unique holiday celebrations throughout the year.

Embedded in Austin

In 2018 over 400 leaders from the Austin community came together (“Austin Coming Together”) to develop a comprehensive roadmap and Quality of Life Plan for revitalization, called Austin Forward. Together (AFT). The AFT QLP is in active use, and as a lead member of that 400-person coalition, BUILD also lead two key issue areas - Youth Empowerment and Public Safety. BUILD’s Campus transformation project is very directly aligned – addressing 6 out of 7 issue areas, 16 out of 23 strategies, and 38 priority actions across the whole plan. The smooth and successful construction of such a project would be a powerful demonstration of the AFT QLP’s strength and merit, and prove the importance of listening to existing community voices when pursuing healthy and lasting community revitalization.

To download a complete record and description of BUILD’s alignment with each of the 38 priority actions in the AFT QLP, Click here.

Here is a higher-level summary of the relevant issue areas and strategies.

Public Safety

(Led by BUILD community-wide)

  1. “Create high-quality prevention strategies to build a safer Austin.”
  2. “Promote high-quality intervention strategies to help at-risk residents and those impacted by the criminal justice system.”
  3. “Increase displays, activities and events of culture and peace in the community.”
  4. “Establish more safe spaces in the community for youth.”
Economic Development
  1. “Train and develop local workers and entrepreneurs.”
  2. “Build the local economy and small businesses to improve community wealth and self-sufficiency.”
  1. “Increase parents’ involvement in their children’s education.”
  2. “Increase student access to wrap-around services.”
Community Narrative
  1. “Invest in local arts and cultural centers.”
  2. “Increase the number of authentic images and stories portraying the Austin community.”
  3. “Create environments that foster health and wellness in the community.”
Youth Empowerment

(Led by BUILD community-wide)

  1. “Increase positive social connections, communications, and info shared among Austin youth.”
  2. “Prepare youth for year-round employment and career opportunities.”
  3. “Expand supportive programs for local youth’s social, emotional and physical well-being.”
Civic Engagement
  1. “Cultivate local leadership to become more effective advocates for our community.”

BUILD goals have always been naturally aligned with the AFT QLP - it represents carefully defined needs we helped identify and articulate. This means that our transformed campus will not only help BUILD grow, but help achieve wider community goals of transforming the neighborhood. In Austin, where progress has been hindered by pandemic and other challenges, a successful BUILD campus would be a highly visible victory for all.

Coordinated with other Austin Growth

The Austin Forward. Together (AFT) Plan actually played a pivotal role in ensuring that major projects are coordinated (and not duplicated) across the Austin neighborhood. Three exciting new youth centers are currently underway across Austin, the beginnings of a healthy network of community resources and services, and long overdue after decades of disinvestment. The three facilities share many qualities and features and have a common goal of lifting the West Side to peace and prosperity. However, with key differences in their areas of focus and mission, they beautifully complement each other and strengthen the overall network's reach and quality.

The North Austin Community Center

The Center will provide 140,000 sq ft. of desperately needed sports and wellness infrastructure: cross-fit spaces, playgrounds, rentable soccer fields, basketball courts - all to support organized neighborhood leagues and outdoor education, with religious wrap-around services from By the Hand Club for Kids and Grace and Peace Church. These programs support after school programs for young people in the K-12 grades, with greater focus on elementary school-aged children, and of course children who are enrolled in school. By the Hand stays with their older youth when they can but doesn’t specifically partner with high schools or offer services for youth not in school. This makes BUILD’s focused work with this age group both in and out of schools a smooth compliment.

The ASPIRE Center

(80-100,00 sq ft) from The West Side Health Authority and Austin Coming Together is designed to provide comprehensive cradle-to-career economic support and development, from early learning to job training. Centrally located on a busy commercial corridor, ASPIRE plans to offer multi-stage, empowering life-support resources like an early learning childcare center, a fitness center, on-site senior housing, and formal job training for adults in fields ranging from healthcare to advanced manufacturing. It will be an extraordinary one-stop-shop for adults working to transform their own lives.

BUILD’s 51,000 sq ft. campus

Designed with tweens, teens, and community in mind – and while we will also have reservable spaces for partner service organizations to meet and work, it is designed to be a joyful and welcoming space for youth and the community that supports them. BUILD will offer facilities dedicated to the arts, music production, engineering and crafting, live performance, games and leisure, homework, cooking, and nutrition, destigmatize mental health care, sports and fitness all year round, and even laundry - it is meant to be a home away from home, occupied and used by youth working with mentors to discover and fulfill their potential. BUILD’s campus will also maintain a busy calendar of community cultural events and family nights, from harvest days on the farm, movies, “midnight basketball”, open mics and art nights.


We're out of space because BUILD has experienced rapid growth these last few years, rising to the challenge of Chicago's epidemic of gun violence. We know what our young people need, and we will not fail them just for lack of space. BUILD THE FUTURE is a campaign to help tens of thousands more young people across the city, strengthening them and all the neighborhoods we serve with a West Side community campus that stands for promise and opportunity and every child's right to achieve the potential within.

We plan to start construction in the fall of 2021. Whether the entire campus is completed in one or two years after that depends on the progress of the campaign and public health conditions; we will keep the community regularly updated.

All of the construction will take place inside the property and on the existing parking lot.

Yes, BUILD will provide services in the community but at partner locations across the neighborhood.

Of course! We welcome neighbors and members of the community to use the center - the fitness rooms, cafe, meeting rooms - especially before 2pm when many youth are in school. We will always need to prioritize our own youth programming in our scheduling, but this is a community center - our public spaces are always open, and whatever reservable room we have is for sharing.

For more information please contact Bradly K. Johnson, Director of External Affairs
Email: bradlyjohnson@buildchicago.org, Phone: Office: 773-227-2880; Direct: 773-413-3811

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