PILSEN — At a second meeting to discuss a Pilsen nonprofit’s plan to build a six-story, 45-unit affordable housing building, some residents said they were concerned the project was too tall for the block and could speed up gentrification in the changing neighborhood.
The Resurrection Project and Skender Construction revealed new renderings of the $20 million, 62-foot-tall building they hope to build at 1850 S. Racine Ave. at a meeting last week. Pilsen is suffering as longtime residents are displaced, said Veronica Gonzalez, vice president of real estate at the Resurrection Project, and adding new “permanent affordable units” aims to allay neighbors’ gentrification fears.
“This development is TRP’s anti-displacement strategy. It’s an opportunity to serve those families that we find are most vulnerable and most at risk of displacement,” Gonzalez said.
Under plans, the development at the corner of South 19th Street and West Racine Avenue would include a mix of 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartments that would house people and families making between $17,000 and $50,000 per year.
About 20 one-bedroom apartments, 20 two-bedroom apartments and five three-bedroom units would be built. The building would also include a community room on the first floor and 31 parking spaces.
The unit breakdown reflects the type of units the 290 people on The Resurrection Project’s waitlist currently need, Gonzalez said. Of those people, 158 have applied for 1-bedroom units, 130 are seeking 2-bedroom units, and 68 looking for three-bedroom units, she said.
But neighbor Nicholas Brown, 48, said he feared the height of the new building would “set off a gold rush on 18th Street” and a “domino effect” along Racine with more developers coming in to building large-scale developments.
“This is going to create hyper-gentrification and change the character of the street,” said Brown, who has lived in the neighborhood for 19 years.
The neighborhood is “going to look like Wicker Park in 10 minutes,” he said.
Angela Spadoni, lead architect with Skender Construction, said the design team looked to create a building that is “distinct but compatible” with the neighborhood. The proposed masonry-and-panel building was inspired by nearby buildings, she said.
As proposed, the building’s design would include a prominent mural facing Racine, benches and planters to create an inviting community experience, Spadoni said.
‘This looks like gentrification’
Some residents said the design for the affordable housing development was “cookie-cutter” and “out of character” with the neighborhood.
Jim Watkins, who has lived in another affordable housing development built by The Resurrection Project for nine years, said the design of this building “looks like gentrification to me.”
The building shouldn’t exceed five stories, Watkins said.
“There’s nothing like it around here …It’s going to open a can of worms” for other developers to come in and build taller buildings, he said.
But Gonzalez said other developers that aim to build 10 or more housing units in Pilsen would need to include at least 10 percent affordable housing units on site to comply with the city’s new affordable housing rules for the area.
And there are affordable housing developments of similar scale and density within a half-mile of the proposed project, Gonzalez said. Those buildings include Casa Morelos, a seven-story 45 unit complex at 2015 S. Morgan St.; Casa Maravillia, a five-story building with 72 units at 2021 S. Morgan St.; and Las Americas Chicago Housing Authority Senior Housing, a nine-story building with 212 units at 1611 S. Racine Ave.
Spadoni also pointed to the Honky Tonk building at the corner of 18th and Racine, which is just shy of 60 feet.
Other neighbors said they would be OK with the project if the group knocked off the top two floors.
In order to make the funding work, the project would need to have 45 units at the site, Gonzalez said.
Other residents also raised concerns the new building would exacerbate parking issues in the area. The alderman’s office was working with Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning to address existing parking concerns, Gonzalez said. Many current tenants in other Resurrection Project affordable housing buildings carpool or use public transportation, which has resulted in some unused parking spaces at those buildings, she said.
Despite concerns from other residents, Idalci Xavier said she liked the building design and wasn’t bothered by the height.
The 56-year-old resident, who previously lived in an affordable housing building operated by The Resurrection Project, said more affordable housing is needed in Pilsen.
When asked if he’d support the project, Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) declined to say.
“We want to support more affordable housing,” Sigcho-Lopez said, but he is also taking into account the concerns of nearby residents.
Sigcho-Lopez, an advocate for affordable housing, said his office and zoning committee will gather feedback during a separate public community meeting once the Resurrection Project submits a formal proposal.
Resurrection Project officials aim to submit a zoning application to the city next month and will begin applying for state and federal funds to build the project between September and February 2020.
The property is currently zoned B3-2, which allows for a 15-unit, 50-foot building at the site. The nonprofit is seeking a zoning change to B3-5, which would allow for 45-units and a 62-foot tall building, Gonzalez said.
If approved by the alderman and the city, construction on the building would begin by May 2021 and units would begin leasing by spring 2022.
The Resurrection Project currently operates 330 affordable housing units across its Pilsen properties. Those buildings include: Casa Morelos, 2015 S. Morgan St.; Casa Guanajuato, 1313 W. 19th St.; Casa Guerrero, 963 W. Cullerton St.; and Casa Monterrey, 967 W. 19th St.
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