WEST HUMBOLDT PARK — The city is asking residents of West Humboldt Park and the surrounding area to weigh in on a pair of competing development proposals for the old Pioneer Bank site.
Hispanic Housing Development Corp. and Park Row Development are vying to redevelop the bank site at 4000 W. North Ave. and 1616-38 N. Pulaski Road, which has sat vacant for 13 years. The two developers submitted development proposals through Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, which aims to revitalize neighborhoods on the South and West sides.
Hispanic Housing is looking to transform the bank building into a Latino cultural hub with offices for PrimeCare Health and Rincon Family Services on the upper floors and a public library on the ground floor. The nonprofit developer also wants to build an 11-story, 76-unit affordable housing complex on the site to the north of the building. The complex would house the performing arts studio En Las Tablas and Repertorio Latino Theater Co.
Park Row Development, on the other hand, has a vision for the bank building that includes offices for a Latino-led nonprofit, entrepreneurial incubator space and a Latino cultural center. Under Park Row’s plans, a 75-unit affordable housing complex with a Humboldt Park Family Health facility and possibly a library would open on the site north of the building.
The city’s Department of Planning and Development is collecting feedback from residents before selecting a developer for the project. To give feedback, people can fill out the community survey. For a Spanish version, go here.
The developers competing to build on the West Humboldt Park site pitched stakeholders and residents at a community meeting Tuesday evening, the latest step in the city process that kicked off earlier this year.
Paul Roldan, president of Hispanic Housing, touted his company’s 20 years of experience building affordable housing in Humboldt Park and beyond.
For Hispanic Housing, the Pioneer Bank redevelopment project, dubbed Los Pioneros and designed by the architecture firm HED, would be the latest in a string of similar projects, Roldan said.
The nonprofit developer’s Humboldt Park projects include the Teresa Roldán Apartments on Paseo Boricua at 1154 N. Campbell Ave., the 65th Infantry Regiment “Borinqueneers” Veterans Housing at 1051 N. Sacramento Ave. and the North & Pulaski Apartments at 3949 W. North Ave.
Also in Humboldt Park, Hispanic Housing is planning to build affordable housing complexes at 1201-09 N. California Ave. and 1237 N. California Ave. and on the Jens Jensen-designed Pioneer Arcade building site at 1535 N. Pulaski Road, at the same intersection as the Pioneer Bank building.
Roldan said Hispanic Housing should be awarded the Pioneer Bank bid given his company’s experience building affordable housing in Humboldt Park and its commitment to preserving the neighborhood’s Latino identity in the face of gentrification.
The Pioneer Bank redevelopment is expected to cost $73.4 million in total, the development team said. The project would be funded through a mix of tax-exempt bonds, tax credits, grants and possibly tax increment finance dollars if the district is extended.
The project would benefit community organizations like PrimeCare Health, the development team said, enabling the health care facility to serve nearly double the amount of patients it currently serves annually.
“For decades, the Pioneer Bank building symbolized the promise of stability, cultural enrichment and growth. We believe it can do the same for the community that lives there now,” Roldan said, adding that their project “reflects the vision of the community.”
The former Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank was built in 1925 and designed by architect Karl M. Vitzthum during the “golden age” of banking, when banks were designing grand buildings to “signal to the banking customer the notion that their money would be safe and the bank was here to stay,” city officials said in a report. The bank earned city landmark status in 2012.
Puerto Rico-based bank Banco Popular took over the landmarked bank building in the mid-’90s as Humboldt Park’s Puerto Rican population grew. Banco Popular called the building home until 2008, when it moved across the street.
In recent years, the site has languished. Pulaski Investments, owner of the site since 2015, has struggled to redevelop the building and the surrounding lots, city officials have said.
Matt Mosher, the head of Park Row Development, said his company is equipped to bring the site back to its former glory with local architecture firm JGMA, which has worked on Humboldt Park Health, Northeastern Illinois University’s El Centro Library and Learning Resource Center and Lathrop Homes, among other projects.
Under Park Row’s $52.5 million project, called Team Pioneros, the first floors of the bank would become offices for JGMA and the nonprofit Arquitectos Chicago and entrepreneurial incubator space through BTEC, a local business and technology education center, said Juan Moreno, of JGMA.
“The first floor is really going to encompass a lot of really great, upscale mobility where we can invite those who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, and at the same time creating career pathways that lead to successful and sustainable jobs,” said Xavier Hernandez, of BTEC.
The Park Row and Hispanic Housing proposals share similarities: Both projects include Latino cultural and community hubs and about 75 apartments for people earning 30-60 percent of the area median income.
One of the biggest differences between the two proposals is the layout: Hispanic Housing plans to connect the bank building and the affordable housing complex with a pavilion, whereas Park Row Development plans to make the two sites into one building with a “community balcony” for building residents.
One neighbor at Tuesday’s meeting said Park Row’s proposal looks more like a Downtown office than an affordable housing complex, to which Moreno replied, “I actually think that’s a wonderful compliment.”
“I really like changing the narrative of what we think affordable housing is, and I think beautiful spaces like these are what our community and our residents deserve,” Moreno said.
The city will collect community feedback on the two proposals in the coming weeks before selecting a developer. For more information about the proposals, and for the developers’ full presentations, visit the city’s website.
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