New community fitness space opens in Austin

The Aspire Center, the workforce development and community center coming to the former Emmet School building, 5500 W. Madison St., won’t open its doors until 2024. But in the meantime, residents can take advantage of an outdoor community space that is officially opened on Dec. 3 in the southwest corner of the school’s former parking lot.

The POPFit community plaza is the latest of the Public Outdoor Plaza (POP) spaces built on vacant city-owned lots thought to be a collaboration between the Westside Health Authority (WHA), Lamar Johnson Collaborative architecture firm and the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.

The POPFit plaza features a youth soccer field, a running track and outdoor fitness equipment. WHA owns the Emmet School building, and it’s currently working with the Austin Coming Together coalition and other Chicago nonprofits to turn the building into the Aspire Center for Workplace Innovation, which will have a BMO Harris bank branch and community spaces. The center will also offer job training and social service programs.

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