CHICAGO (WLS) -- City leaders held a groundbreaking ceremony for Englewood Connect, a $13.9 million development project near 63rd and Halsted.
The project includes transforming a nearly 100-year-old vacant firehouse into a culinary hub and a year-round community meeting space.
"The firehouse will be the impetus for a culinary experience, both a food hub as well as a test kitchen, but more importantly a community kitchen," said McLaurin Development Partners CEO Zeb McLaurin.
The company submitted the winning proposal for the site as part of the city's INVEST South/West initiative.
The firehouse is located just steps away from the Whole Foods that's set to close in the near future. The firehouse has been vacant for decades.
"It has been a symbol, unfortunately, of the term that we have heard a lot lately, disinvestment," McLaurin said.
INVEST South/West aims to revitalize 12 commercial corridors on the South and West sides.
Mayor Lightfoot responded to critics who question the results of her signature initiative.
"There are many out there who are skeptical, who think that we're not actually doing something," Lightfoot said. "And someone actually had the audacity to say and write, 'Invest South/West - interesting vision but not materializing.'"
Alderman Stephanie Coleman wouldn't weigh in on if INVEST South/West was off to a slow start. Instead, she wanted to focus on the impact that this development project will have on Englewood.
"This will be a place where you see people who look like you actually running the space and this will be a place that you can connect with others," she said.
Englewood resident Isiah ThoughtPoet Veney's exhibit served as the backdrop for the groundbreaking ceremony. It showcases residents who are making a difference in Englewood.
"This art, this moment, this groundbreaking moment, this is progress for Englewood," he said.
Construction will begin in the next couple of months with a completion date of next summer, the developer said.