AVONDALE — Community leaders are urging the city to give neighbors more time to weigh in on plans to redevelop Avondale’s Belmont Triangle and ensure what’s built at the site doesn’t accelerate rapid gentrification in the area.
The city’s Department of Planning and Development is working with Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to redevelop four vacant lots in the heart of Avondale, at 3240-84 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3207-47 N. Pulaski Road and 3934-62 W. Belmont Ave.
The parcels, bounded by Belmont Avenue, Milwaukee Avenue and Pulaski Road, were once home to a collection of industrial buildings and businesses, including Wally’s International Market and Angelica’s Restaurant, but have sat empty for several years as Avondale has gentrified.
City officials said they will invite developers to submit proposals for the 4-acre site this summer using community input, but neighborhood leaders said residents have had little opportunity to give feedback. Many who were surveyed did not know about the redevelopment or recent community meetings providing more information, organizers said.
“This community needs time to absorb and understand the Belmont Triangle [project] as this will have a direct impact on the neighborhood,” Palenque LSNA housing organizer Juanairis Castaneda said at a news conference in front of the lot last week.
Members of Avondale Neighborhood Association and State Rep. Will Guzzardi also were among those who blasted the city for fast-tracking the project without prioritizing residents’ needs.
“Why can’t the city take a step back and try and engage with the neighborhood?” Castaneda said. “Why does the city want to create an RFP so quickly after the community process?”
Reboyras didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. A city spokesman didn’t provide a statement by the time of publication.
With the redevelopment project, the city aims to inject new life into the massive site, which Department of Planning and Development Commissioner Maurice Cox described as “economically disconnected from the commercial corridors that have long been associated with Avondale’s vitality and culture.”
All of the parcels are privately owned. The city is stepping in to help facilitate redevelopment like it has for a number of sites under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative.
So far, city planners have hosted two community meetings on the Belmont Triangle project — one in April and and another in May. A third community meeting is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday. To register, go here.
Some neighbors couldn’t make it to the first two community meetings because of work or personal conflicts, Castaneda said. Just under 100 people attended the first meeting.
The overhaul of the 4-acre site will have an outsized impact on the future of gentrifying Avondale and should address mounting displacement pressures in the neighborhood, local leaders said.
Avondale lost nearly 5,700 Latino residents between 2021-2017, the most of any city neighborhood, according to WBEZ. Polish residents and businesses also have vanished from the neighborhood in recent years.
“The area was once thriving with mom-and-pop shops and homes. Avondale is the neighborhood that built Chicago. Now displacement and gentrification move up Milwaukee [Avenue] with unrelenting pressure,” Castaneda said. “The city has the power to stop this evil force, to fight displacement and gentrification. We must slow the process of the Belmont Triangle development because our area’s culture depends on it.”
Community leaders also are urging the city to incorporate affordable housing, a public library and green space into the design. The neighborhood is park poor and doesn’t have its own library, neighborhood leaders said.
“You don’t see a lot of this size getting redeveloped very often,” Guzzardi said. “This is a really unique parcel in our neighborhood and our community needs a lot.”
Community organizer and neighborhood historian Daniel Pogorzelski, who is running for commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, said a development this size will play an important role in Avondale’s future as a cultural hub.
“We want to make that we have a space and a refuge, and this neighborhood is ours, and will be ours,” Pogorzelski said. “We welcome everyone, but we want to make sure that the people who have lived here for years and years still have a place to live.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: