CHICAGO — A plan to convert two McKinley Park warehouses into apartments and offices near a controversial asphalt plant was approved by a City Council committee Tuesday after a last-minute move to delay the vote failed.
The project aims bring 120 affordable apartments and 39 market-rate apartments and commercial space to two existing warehouses adjacent to McKinley Park in the 2100 block of West Pershing Road.
But the plan has received pushback from neighbors because it sits roughly 600 feet from MAT Asphalt, a polluting plant which has concerned neighbors since it opened. The warehouses’ proximity to the plant prompted the city to deny millions in tax credits to the site’s developers last year.
Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) said she did not doubt the “sincerity” of developers Code Real Estate Partners and Hispanic Housing Development, which aim to bring a “beautiful development” to the location. But she asked her council colleagues to delay voting on the project until the committee could review more information on potential health risks to future residents.
“If this situation were reversed, if the housing existed there already, I’m wondering would we approve the location of the asphalt plant there?” Hadden asked.
“Do you — knowing that our public health department and our Department of Housing have outright rejected this project over those concerns … knowing that the Illinois EPA did not go through their normal channels to approve the placement of this asphalt plant — do you feel comfortable approving this project now?” she asked ahead of the vote to defer the project.
The effort to postpone the vote failed and the project was subsequently approved by the city’s Committee on Zoning by a 11-3 vote. The project is slated to be voted on by the full City Council Wednesday.
Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Ald. Byron Sigcho Lopez (25th) and Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) joined Hadden in trying to postpone the vote. then Dowell ultimately joined the majority of committee members in voting to send the project to City Council.
Local Ald. George Cardenas (12th), whose ward includes the site, urged his colleagues to support the project, saying the project was “debated ad nauseum” in Plan Commission last week.
“We’ve been going almost two years on this development, we’ve met with everyone but the moon and I think that there comes a time where action has to be taken,” he said.
The project was approved by the Plan Commission in a rare 7-4 split vote. Teresa Cordova, who chairs the commission, voted no, saying the city should better consider “environmental racism” when reviewing developments.
The overhaul of the warehouses would create nearly 160 apartments, according to the plans. There would be 120 affordable units at 2159 W. Pershing Road, called Parkview Lofts, and 39 market-rate units plus office or commercial space at 2139 W. Pershing Road, called Parkview Commerce.
In the Parkview Lofts building, all 120 apartments will be available to households making 30-80 percent of the area median income, $27,950-$74,550. Rents will range from $511 for a 740-square-foot apartment to $1,635 for a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment.
Parkview Commerce will have 39 units on top of commercial space that could take the shape of a business incubator, officials said. The combined development will have 141 parking spaces and a shared space between the building with gathering areas and landscaping.
To address the neighboring asphalt plant, the development team plans to install a two-tier air filtration system and insulated aluminum windows. There is also a 20-foot berm separating the development site from the plant, said Steve Friedland, an attorney for the developers.
Last summer, the city rejected an application from the developers for $8 million in assistance to support the affordable housing on the site, according to the Sun Times.
Environmental group Neighbors for Environmental Justice submitted a letter to the Plan Commission asking the city to “support affordable housing in McKinley Park and stop supporting MAT Asphalt,” saying they “reject the false framing that asks us to choose between affordable housing and clean air.”
With the committee approval and support of the local alderman, the project is likely to receive full Council approval Wednesday.
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