HUMBOLDT PARK — Construction is underway on the long-planned affordable housing arts building on Humboldt Park’s Division Street.
Crews this week started tearing down the existing buildings at 2709-15 W. Division St. to make way for a 5-story affordable housing complex with a ground-floor theater, a project years in the making.
The development, funded by tax-increment finance dollars and tax-exempt housing bonds, will be called the Nancy Y. Franco Maldonado Paseo Boricua Arts Building after 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado’s late wife, Nancy, who conceived of the project.
The ground-floor will house a 99-seat theater leased by a local group and two retail spaces. Above the theater will be 24 affordable apartments reserved for people earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income. The apartments will be marketed to artists and their families, though anyone who qualifies will be eligible to rent them, the development team has said.
Construction this week marks the official start of the project, which has been in the works for seven years.
The project first surfaced in 2014 as part of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center’s plan to preserve and support the Puerto Rican community in Humboldt Park. At the time, Maldonado called the project “a major step in trying to commercially and culturally anchor our community as it faces the onslaught of an ever-encroaching gentrification process which seeks to erase our historical memory from the Greater Humboldt Park community.”
The site was previously home to the Ashland Sausage Company.
The project received a huge boost in 2018, when it was awarded $4.25 million in tax-increment finance dollars.
Last year, Mayor Lori Lightfoot introduced an ordinance allowing suburban-based developer Brinshore to use $12 million in tax-exempt housing bonds, double what was previously approved.
It is unclear when the project is expected to be complete. Neither Maldonado nor Brinshore representatives responded to requests for comment this week. But the five-story building will bring new life to Paseo Boricua, which hasn’t seen much new construction in recent years.
The project comes as gentrification-fueled displacement has increased in Humboldt Park, in part due to The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail.
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