PILSEN — Despite an ongoing lawsuit against the city, a developer is resurrecting a controversial plan to build hundreds of apartments on one of Pilsen’s largest vacant lots, a move the area’s alderman says is an attempt to “blindside” the community.
New York-based Property Markets Group aims to build 434 apartments across eight buildings at 16th and Peoria streets, according to a zoning application filed with the city this week. In an unusual move, the developer didn’t discuss the new plan with Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) before filing the application, the alderman said.
The developer didn’t meet with the ward’s new 11-person development advisory board or present plans to neighbors at a community meeting either, Sigcho-Lopez said.
“At this point, we can’t have a discussion until they address their litigation matters,” Sigcho-Lopez said.
“We will not move anything forward without the community-driven process that will allow the community to have a say,” he said, adding: ““…I don’t think [this project] is going to sit well with the community.”
A feud over the development of the site — and how much affordable housing it should include — has continued for years.
Last year, Property Market Group sued the city, alleging it illegally changed the property’s zoning to block the project.
In April 2016, then-Ald. Danny Solis moved to rezone the property from residential to an industrial use, effectively blocking new development on the site. City Council later approved the new zoning.
The court case is ongoing. Chicago Law Department spokesman Bill McCaffrey declined to comment on the pending litigation.
Property Markets Group Principal Noah Gottlieb could not be reached Thursday.
In 2017, Property Market Group pitched plans for a 465-apartment development on the site. From the outset, the project was met with resistance from residents and activists, including Sigcho-Lopez, who said the development would spur more gentrification in the neighborhood.
The property now falls partially within the new “affordable housing ordinance” pilot program, and would be built alongside the start of the proposed Paseo trail, which begins at the intersection of 16th and Sangamon streets.
In December 2018, City Council unanimously approved a new plan that increased the affordable housing requirement from 10 percent to 20 percent for most new developments built in a 7.2-square-mile area in Pilsen and Little Village.
In April, Sigcho-Lopez told Block Club he wouldn’t approve any proposal planned for the 7.2-acre site unless it included 30 percent affordable housing, citing a non-binding referendum where residents overwhelming voted for at least 30 percent affordable housing on “megaprojects” along the proposed El Paseo trail.
Before Sigcho-Lopez was elected alderman in April, as an activist working with Pilsen Alliance, he fought the developer’s plans for the massive 7.2-acre site for years.
During a community meeting for the project back in 2017, Sigcho Lopez, the former executive director of Pilsen Alliance, called for as much as 100 percent affordable at the site.
“We have thousands of families that have been displaced. …It’s not outrageous to say we want all affordable. …Luxury housing is not something we are going to compromise with,” Sigcho-Lopez told DNAinfo at the time.
In April, Sigcho-Lopez said the developer has failed to compromise on the number of affordable housing units the development will include.
“Obviously, nobody wants empty lots. We want to see good projects that bring opportunities for all of us,” Sigcho Lopez said. “…Unfortunately, PMG has not been willing to meet people halfway.”
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