LOGAN SQUARE — In a new data-driven report, a researcher with the Metropolitan Planning Council takes aim at the Logan Square property owners who sued to block the affordable housing project next to the Logan Square Blue Line station, saying their arguments are “not supported by facts or data.”
The author of the report, posted to the organization’s website Tuesday, is Daniel Cooper, director of research for the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The nonpartisan policy organization has been involved in redeveloping the site since 2015, when it held a series of community meetings on the matter, but Cooper was not hired by anyone to conduct the report. Cooper said he took on the project because he felt it important to examine the arguments laid out in the lawsuit.
“We at MPC have been tracking these sorts of things for a long time. This is certainly not the first time someone has gone to great lengths to block affordable housing,” Cooper said.
The lawsuit was filed earlier this spring by a group of Logan Square property owners including prolific Northwest Side landlord Mark Fishman.
In the lawsuit, members of the group Neighbors for Responsible Development argue that replacing a parking lot with 100 subsidized apartments would cause them “irreparable injury.”
Nonprofit developer Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation is planning to build a seven-story affordable housing complex at 2602-38 N. Emmett St., a city-owned site next to the Logan Square Blue Line station that is currently being used as a parking lot.
Over the course of several months, city leaders approved the construction of the complex and voted to put $22.5 million in multifamily housing bonds toward the project.
Members for Responsible Development allege in the lawsuit that the development, filed against Bickerdike and the city, would have a “substantial…negative impact” on the neighborhood by taking away parking.
“For over a decade the Logan Square Environs has benefited from the investment and hard work of persons and entities such as Plaintiffs who have made the Environs a thriving residential, retail and restaurant corridor,” the 15-page legal complaint reads. “By eliminating the only public parking in the area and replacing it with 100 apartments…the Project will choke off those residents, businesses, employees and visitors as people will no longer have a place to park and traffic will be a nightmare.”
Cooper, with the Metropolitan Planning Council, said he could not find any support for those claims, however.
Cooper analyzed all parking lot demolitions in Chicago over the past five years, situations in which parking lots were demolished to make way for developments and new uses. He found 28 examples — 11 garage structures and 17 surface lots — using the real estate data service CoStar.
Cooper said while it may not be possible to determine whether the demolition of a parking lot hurt surrounding businesses or property owners, data show these demolitions are happening Downtown and on the North Side — places with a high concentration of businesses and with great walkability and access to public transit.
“These places don’t necessarily need parking because there’s transit right there. We’re not seeing parking lots get demolished where there’s no transit or economic viability,” he said.
In a quest to figure out whether Logan Square has a parking problem, Cooper also analyzed the most recently available census data — from 2017 — to understand car ownership trends in the 35th Ward. Cooper found that two thirds of the people who live in the area surrounding the development proposal don’t have a car, which is way higher than the rest of the ward.
“Parking is much less of an issue in the area surrounding the development than in most places of Chicago,” Cooper concluded.
Neighbors for Responsible Development didn’t respond to requests for comment. Attorney Thomas Ramsdell, who represents the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, also didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Cooper said his organization has studied similar lawsuits across the Chicago area, including a recent one in suburban Tinley Park, and the Logan Square lawsuit follows a “very clear pattern.”
The Logan Square lawsuit is “another example of a kitchen sink attempt to block affordable housing by any means necessary, no matter how frivolous the argument,” he said in the report.
Bickerdike CEO Joy Aruguete said in an email Tuesday the lawsuit is moving forward despite the coronavirus crisis.
“We are fiercely defending the project and contesting the lawsuit,” Aruguete said.
Aruguete said they will soon be filing a motion to dismiss the suit, adding that they believe “the basis for the motion to dismiss is very strong.”
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