New Austin wellness center aims to bolster life expectancy, be a ‘symbol of hope’

The $19.5 million PCC Primary Care Pavilion will offer a gym, dance center, demonstration test kitchen, community meeting spaces and a community garden and urban farm to Austin residents to help lower the life expectancy gap.

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Marnie Robinson, public relations liaison for PCC Community Wellness Center, speaks at the groundbreaking for the new Primary Care Pavilion, 5425 W Lake St. in Austin.

Marnie Robinson speaks at the groundbreaking for the new Primary Care Pavilion on Monday. Robinson is public relations liaison for PCC Community Wellness Center and a member of the board of the PCC Foundation.

Cheyanne Daniels/Sun-Times

Cassandra Morgan has lived in Austin for 35 years. Good health care has always been important to her family — she has a daughter who struggles with mental health issues.

“It’s hard,” said Morgan. “So many people forget about what’s happening with mental health.”

Soon, though, Morgan and her family will have a new space in their own community to find resources to help them.

On Monday, the 36,525-square-foot PCC Primary Care Pavilion broke ground at 5425 W. Lake St., across the street from PCC Austin Family Health Center.

The pavilion plans to offer on-site primary care, behavioral health, dental and specialty services identified as “high need” by community members.

“The Austin pavilion started out as an idea in 2016,” said Robert Urso, former president and CEO of PCC Community Wellness Center, formerly the Parent Child Center. “The project represents the ability to bring community residents and organizations together in collaborative relationships to address social determinants of health and health inequity.”

With space for a gym, demonstration test kitchen and a community garden, PCC board members said they hope to address the life expectancy gap between Austin residents and other parts of the city.

“When people see this building, it’s going to be a symbol of hope,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford. ”Life expectancy is lower than in communities around us.”

West Side United, an organization promoting health equity, estimates that those who live in West Side neighborhoods have a projected life expectancy up to 14 years shorter than those who live downtown. This gap is the result of barriers to “equitable health care, education and economic opportunity, as well as the physical environment,” the group says.

A rendering of the planned PCC Primary Care Pavilion, 5425 Lake St.

A rendering of the planned PCC Primary Care Pavilion, 5425 Lake St., which will offer a gym, dance center, demonstration test kitchen, community meeting spaces and a community garden and urban farm. It is expected to be completed in late 2023.

Provided

The pavilion is part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative. Spanning five parcels of land from Cook County Land Bank Authority, the project will cost nearly $19.5 million.

The project is receiving funding from The PCC Foundation. PCC Community Wellness Center has 14 sites located primarily on the West Side, and qualifies for New Market Tax Credits and additional government and private funds.”

The pavilion is expected to be completed within 18 months.

“The opportunity to have a place that’s going to adhere to your body, your mind and your soul could only help our community,” said Morgan.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.

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