CITY HALL — The Chicago Plan Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to approve a long-brewing proposal to build an all-affordable 100-unit apartment complex next to the Logan Square Blue Line station, knocking down its first major hurdle in a line of needed city approvals.
The proposal by Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation envisions a seven-story building on the site of a 1.43-acre city-owned parking lot at 2602-38 N. Emmett St. The commission also approved a measure on Thursday to sell the property to the developer for $1.
Thursday’s vote was the culmination of five years of planning and furious organizing by neighbors who saw affordable housing as “the community’s top priority” for the empty lot, according to Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th).
“If you look at the data, and listen to the testimony here today, you’ll see that Logan Square is ground zero for displacement in Chicago,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “It’s very clear that the community supports this.”
The development is estimated to cost $40.1 million, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. It would draw on a range of public funding sources, including the Chicago Housing Authority, tax-increment financing and low-income housing tax credits.
About half the units would be earmarked for Chicago Housing Authority voucher holders, and the other half would be targeted to people making less than 60 percent of area median income.
Bickerdike is aiming to finalize its funding by next spring and break ground shortly thereafter, according to CEO Joy Aruguete.
The proposal’s dependence on public funding and city-owned land means it still needs approval from the Community Development Commission and the City Council’s committees on zoning, housing and finance before it can be approved by the full council.
But with Ramirez-Rosa and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration putting their full weight behind the plan, the alderman told The Daily Line he is confident it will reach the finish line.
Chicago Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara called the site of the development a “unicorn of a property,” because it’s “city-owned land located across the street from transit in a gentrifying community. Because the department values people over cars … and because the department believes that we should use our tools to reduce segregation and not maintain it, the Department of Housing emphatically supports this project,” Novara said.
One day after the City Council confirmed him as the new commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development, Maurice Cox also heaped praise on the plan.
“This feels almost like a textbook case study of what it means to create income diversity in neighborhoods that are changing and increasingly difficult for people of all incomes to live in,” Cox said. “As residents, we should be extremely proud of this project and I support it wholeheartedly.”
It was a “very different” tone from the days of former Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose Planning Commissioner David Reifman “hated this project,” Ramirez-Rosa said with a laugh.
“He and I went back and forth for years on it,” Ramirez-Rosa said.
The alderman handed commissioners a 10-page account of the support advocates had generated for the plan since 2014, when the Metropolitan Planning Council — whose staff included Novara at the time — led a “participatory planning process” to find better uses for the parking lot, Ramirez-Rosa said.
Bickerdike submitted its first Planned Development application for the site in 2016. Architects re-tooled the building’s design multiple times since then in response to community feedback, the alderman said.
Neighbors voted by a more than 3-to-1 margin to approve the plan during a packed community meeting in April.
The proposal has progressed over the objections of a dedicated group of opponents, more than a dozen of whom spoke at the meeting to say the proposed building was out of character with its surroundings and stole away much-needed parking from local businesses.
“I oppose this project because we don’t want to build a seven-story building in a historic district and remove all of the parking for the commercial area on Milwaukee [Avenue],” said Mark Fishman, a prolific Logan Square apartment owner and frequent foe of Ramirez-Rosa. “I’m not against affordable housing…if this came in as a four- or five-story building that looked like the rest of the neighborhood historically, no one would have any problem with this.”