Mayor Brandon Johnson and other officials at the groundbreaking for Fifth City Commons. Credit: Trey Arline/Block Club Chicago

EAST GARFIELD PARK — A $38 million affordable housing development is coming to an East Garfield Park lot that has been empty for over 50 years.

Mayor Brandon Johnson, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) and other city officials celebrated a groundbreaking Wednesday for Fifth City Commons, 3155 W. Fifth Ave. Preservation of Affordable Housing Midwest is the developer behind the project being built on 1.5 acres of land.

Fifth City will bring affordable apartments close to the Kedzie Avenue Green and Blue Line stations. It will also boast solar panels, EV charging stations and a retail space for businesses, developers said.

The first phase of construction will include a three-story apartment building housing 43 apartments plus community rooms, a resident terrace, fitness room, laundry rooms and on-site management offices, developers said. The next phase will be built across the street on the north side of Fifth Avenue and includes affordable home ownership opportunities, developers said.

All told, the project could contain up to 80 housing units, including the for-sale housing.

The project caters to incomes for individuals and families making up to 80 percent of the area median income, or $88,250 per year for a family of four, city officials said.

The sustainable housing project highlights both a new beginning for West Siders in using vacant land and highlights Chicago’s history of architecture, Johnson said.

“Today is a demonstration of what collaboration looks like when it comes to the shared needs of affordable housing,” Johnson said. “I believe everyone in the city of Chicago deserves a roof over their heads. Housing is a human, fundamental right. It’s the smart approach for keeping communities safe and strong.”

A rendering of the Garfield Green project, which will include affordable housing and retail components. Credit: Provided

Previously called Garfield Green, the project was touted by Ervin and other developers to counteract displacement and gentrification by providing residents with better transit-oriented housing options.

The City Council approved a battery of financial assistance for the project in January, including tax increment financing and HOME investment Partnership Program assistance, sales tax bonds, Low Income Housing Tax Credits and tax-exempt bonds, according to the ordinance and a spokesperson for the developer

Other financing, energy, and construction partners include BMO Harris Bank, Enterprise Community Investments, ComEd, Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge and Illinois Solar for All.

“This area is sacred to the community,” Ervin said. “What we will bring to the ground is something that we can be proud of. It is important that legacy residents can stay here and this project will allow them to stay in this community.”

The developer was awarded the site in 2019 after winning a global design competition focused on sustainability. Other environmentally friendly features include triple-pane windows, extensive insulation and air sealing to lower the building’s energy needs.

Two-thirds of the building’s energy will be supplied by rooftop solar panels. In addition to the EV charging stations, there will be extensive bicycle parking, and on-site composting, developers said.

Credit: Trey Arline/Block Club Chicago
Construction of the Fifth City Commons on 3155 West 5th Ave.

Bill Eager, vice president of real estate development for the Midwest region of Preservation of Affordable Housing, said the project will take roughly 12-15 months to complete and find a Black-owned commercial business for the retail space. He said the project was important to showcase that transit-oriented development was possible even on the West Side.

“The level of local input speaks to the power of community engagement and the determination to see new investments here,” Eager said. “People I spoke to talked about how the West Side was overlooked for a long time. Having people staying in the neighborhood was very important.”

Dr. Sheila Vinson, the United Way Neighborhood Network manager for Garfield Park, grew up in the area and remembers when banks and other thriving businesses were in the neighborhood. She recalls being a young child during the 1968 riots in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

“I have no words other than being grateful,” Vinson said. “I am eternally grateful to see something like this happen after 50 years.”

Fifth City Commons follows other affordable housing projects in Garfield Park, including Hub32, a $47.2 million, 63-unit apartment building also near the Green Line Station.

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