HUMBOLDT PARK — A six-story affordable housing building planned for the former site of the Puerto Rican community center in Humboldt Park received final approval from city officials Wednesday.
The City Council approved a zoning change for nonprofit Hispanic Housing Development Corp. to build the long-planned complex at 1237 N. California Ave. About 40 apartments, most of them two- and three-bedroom units, all are geared toward working families, Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said.
No further details were provided. Attempts to reach Hispanic Housing officials were unsuccessful. Maldonado’s office didn’t respond to further questions.
“This is part of the revitalization that we are pursuing on Division Street, on what we call ‘Puerto Rico Town,'” Maldonado said Tuesday, referring to the new name for the Division Street stretch at the center of Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican community.
The City Council vote came a day after the city’s Zoning Committee voted in favor of the zoning change.
The community center, La Casa Puertorriqueña, closed after the former owners, the Puerto Rican Parade Committee of Chicago, landed in bankruptcy court. The group housed their offices at La Casa Puertorriqueña, and staged the Downtown and Humboldt Park festivals.
In a move cheered by locals, including Maldonado, Hispanic Housing bought the property in 2019, beating out for-profit developers in a court-ordered sale. The developer promised to build affordable housing on the land to fight gentrification in Humboldt Park, which has driven longtime Latino residents out of their homes. Crews razed the building that fall to make way for the project.
Many locals were pleased by the prospect of more affordable housing in the area. Others mourned the loss of La Casa Puertorriqueña, which hosted charity events to weekly senior citizen bingo all catered to the Puerto Rican community.
It’s unclear if Hispanic Housing plans to incorporate a new Puerto Rican community center into the new development. Paul Roldan, president of Hispanic Housing, said in 2018: “It’s an important question we need to figure out with the rest of the community.”
For the last couple of years, there has been little activity on the site except for the installation of a sign announcing a new housing development. The zoning clearance helps push the project forward after a long delay.
It’s not clear if Hispanic Housing will pursue city dollars to build the apartments. If they do, that would launch another round of City Council approvals.
Hispanic Housing has big plans for the corner of Division Street and California Avenue. The company also plans another affordable housing complex — this one, nine stories tall — on a long-vacant lot at 1201-09 N. California Ave., Maldonado said. The project has received some pushback from some residents, but has the support of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center and other local groups.
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