Aurora developer who owns 11 buildings downtown making his mark on the city

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Editor’s note: This story is part of the Faces of 2022 series looking back at those in the news in the Aurora area this year.

As Harish Ananthapadmanabhan stood before a crowd in front of his Hobbs Building in Aurora, he joked about the city trusting a couple of guys with a key historic renovation downtown.

That was in November, as the city celebrated the official reopening of the circa-1892 building – known by many as the one with the onion dome – at River Street and Galena Boulevard.

But he was harkening back some four years, when the city decided to take a chance on Ananthapadmanabhan and his partner, Jay Punukollu, in JR Real Estate Partners, two relatively inexperienced developers, to redevelop the key historic downtown building.

Or, as Mayor Richard Irvin put it at the groundbreaking, “me and these brothers had some real conversations.”

“They said, ‘Trust us,’ and I said, ‘I don’t know y’all like that,’” Irvin said.

He does now.

Ananthapadmanabhan, who tells people to just call him Harish, has cast a long shadow through downtown Aurora. He owns 11 buildings downtown, and has redeveloped several of them, and plans more projects with Punukollu.

But perhaps his biggest accomplishment has been the growth of the APS Training Academy downtown, which teaches middle-school-age children STEAM curriculum. Ananthapadmanabhan is the founder and board president of the academy.

APS Training Academy and the Aurora STEAM Academy had more than 2,000 kindergarten through eighth- grade learners in 2022.

The academy established four new robotics teams – two in elementary school and two in middle school -and 14 summer camps.

To date, 3,080 learners have been served since APS Training Academy opened in the fall of 2021.

Some 93.1% of learners’ families are below the area median income.

As APS Training Academy scales to serve more learners in 2023, it also plans to add staff and secure a larger space. The academy plans to add more than 16 adult learning opportunities in digital literacy and industrial robotics.

The work of the academy is gaining such attention that U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm visited APS in July with U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville.

For his work, the city recognized Ananthapadmanabhan along with six other Indian-Americans living in Aurora with the first ever Light and Excellence Awards.

Ananthapadmanabhan has shown himself to be a true believer in Aurora.

“Having vision is one thing, but you have to prove you can execute,” he said in November. “There’s no reason we can’t get (downtown) back to what it was, and maybe even better.”

slord@tribpub.com

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December 28, 2022 at 10:55PM

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