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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Humboldt Park Affordable Apartments Moving Forward, But Neighbors Say Alderman Is Ignoring Their Pleas For A Public Meeting

"This is a nine-story development in the heart of our community ... and [Ald. Maldonado] is not allowing the community to weigh in," one neighbor said.

The development will rise on the empty lot at 1201-1209 N. California Ave.
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HUMBOLDT PARK — A plan for a nine-story affordable housing building in Humboldt Park is moving forward over the protests of neighbors who say the alderman has blocked the public from giving input on a development that will have a huge impact in the neighborhood.

Hispanic Housing Development Corp. wants to build 64 apartments on a vacant lot at 1201-09 N. California Ave. The developer recently received $1.5 million in state tax credits toward the project, and construction is expected to begin within the next few months, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said this week.

But members of the East Humboldt Park Neighborhood Association say Maldonado has ignored their requests for a public meeting about the development for more than a year, and residents haven’t been given any chances to weigh in. Frustrated at Maldonado’s silence, the group launched a petition demanding a community meeting and greater transparency around the project.

The petition has received more than 200 signatures so far.

“It’s really unfortunate that Maldonado can completely shun an entire group of neighbors that essentially he doesn’t want to work with,” said Max Collopy, a member of the neighborhood group.

Maldonado and Hispanic Housing officials didn’t return calls seeking comment.

The apartment building would include 3,221 square feet of retail and 47 parking spaces on the corner of California Avenue and Division Street. The apartments will be geared toward families and older people to stave off gentrification-fueled displacement in Humboldt Park, Maldonado and the developer have said.

“The elderly and working families of the Humboldt Park community face rapidly rising rents and a diminishing amount of choice in the area’s rental market,” the developer said in an email to Maldonado last year. “This development will help secure a more secure future for long-time community residents.”

The Illinois Housing Development Authority on Friday awarded the developer $1.5 million in low-income tax credits to bring the project to life, spokesman Andrew Field said. Hispanic Housing was among several affordable housing developers across the state selected for the program.

In a minute-long video posted to Facebook earlier this week, Maldonado said the project is moving forward. He stood next to the vacant lot as he talked about the benefits of the project.

Maldonado and Paul Roldan, president of Hispanic Housing, also touted the benefits of affordable housing projects in a Facebook Live video last week, saying they’re an effective way to fend off gentrification and keep longtime Latino residents in the community.

Neighbors have fought for months to get a closer look at the proposal and give comments, to no avail. Residents say they have sent multiple emails to Maldonado’s office requesting a community meeting but haven’t even been able get a response from the alderman, Collopy said.

Collopy said his group opposes the project because of the lack of community involvement and because they think the building is too tall for the area.

“The adjacent buildings are either one story or four stories. There’s no building within the vicinity that’s nine stories, let alone facing the park,” Collopy said.

Over the past few years, plans to redevelop the vacant lot, recognizable for its giant “Humboldt” mural, have stalled.

In 2018, Chicago-based developer City Pads and “co-living” startup Common pitched a “co-living” apartment complex geared toward millennials for the site, but that project was scrapped after the deal to buy the property fell through.

Hispanic Housing bought the lot for $1.2 million in February 2019, according to Cook County property records.

Hispanic Housing needs a zoning change to build at California Avenue and Division Street, according to a letter sent to neighbors last spring. It is unclear when the proposal would be reviewed by the city’s Committee on Zoning and the full City Council.

Residents with the East Humboldt Park Neighborhood Association say they will canvass the neighborhood and notify neighbors of the project to fill the gap Maldonado has created by refusing to hold a community meeting, Collopy said.

“This is not changing a stop sign or a traffic light or adding a bike lane. This is a nine-story development in the heart of our community that is receiving low-income tax credits, and [Maldonado] is not allowing the community to weigh in,” he said.

The 64-unit building is one of multiple developments Hispanic Housing has planned for the neighborhood.

The company demolished the La Casa Puertorriqueña building at 1237 N. California Ave to make way for an apartment building, also geared toward older people and families. The nonprofit developer has also said it plans to build an 111-unit senior housing center on part of Roberto Clemente High School’s parking lot.

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