LOGAN SQUARE — A long-discussed plan to build apartments on the Project Logan site — a popular destination for graffiti art — has won the support of the area’s alderman after the developer agreed to incorporate a replacement graffiti wall and more affordable housing.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) on Friday announced he’s throwing his support behind the proposed development, which calls for a five-story, 56-unit apartment building at 2934 W. Medill St., a site that has been home to a four-sided graffiti wall for more than a decade. Developer Stanislaw Pluta with Wilmot Properties is behind the project.
Some neighbors have raised concerns about the plan since it surfaced in late 2020, worried it will further gentrification-fueled displacement in Logan Square and wipe out Project Logan, a treasured public art display that attracts people from all over the country. Neighbors have also taken issue with the project’s modern design.
But La Spata said he reached an agreement with Pluta that he thinks will assuage neighbors’ concerns. Pluta agreed to set aside 20 percent of the apartments as affordable housing and promised to recreate the graffiti wall, La Spata said.
In announcing his support for the project, La Spata said in a written statement that he hopes to “demonstrate that new development can balance the housing challenges our economy faces with features that will hopefully benefit the public for decades to come.”
La Spata told Block Club Monday that Wilmot’s proposal, which calls for two-bedroom apartments, will benefit the gentrifying community, unlike the luxury micro-apartment projects that have popped up near the California Blue Line station in recent years.
“If you look at the previous pattern of development along and adjacent to Milwaukee Avenue, it was 80-90 percent studios and one-bedroom units,” La Spata said.
“The fact that we’re doing a development that is all multi-bedroom units, that it is creating more affordable two-bedroom units than everything else that has [recently] been built in the 1st Ward combined, is a powerful thing to me, particularly as we try to help families stay in the neighborhood, or come back to the neighborhood.”
Wilmot’s development will also ensure Project Logan, a constantly evolving showcase of vibrant graffiti art, remains in the neighborhood for years to come, La Spata said.
“The fact that we’re able to get a legal memorandum of understanding between the developer and artists … that is not a small thing for Logan Square,” he said.
La Spata said he expects the city’s Zoning Committee will vote on Wilmot’s zoning change this month. The rezoning will then head to the full City Council for a final vote. Pluta didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
‘Our Neighborhood Deserves Better’
The Medill Street site is home to one-story commercial buildings, with one side facing garages and the other side facing Liberty Bank’s parking lot.
Wilmot bought some of the properties that make up Project Logan for $1.2 million in early 2020, according to Cook County property records. The developer’s original proposal called for a five-story building with 56 apartments on the top floors, eight of them affordable. The plan also included ground-floor retail and a 56-spot parking lot.
Pluta previously said rent for the regular units would be in the $2,000-per-month range.
At the time, Pluta told La Spata he’d only keep Project Logan if it meant he could have the zoning change, which La Spata called a “frustrating starting point.”
Some neighbors opposed the project, arguing Project Logan should be saved. Any development on the site should include more affordable housing to address rising housing costs in Logan Square and fewer parking spots because the site is close to the Blue Line, they said. Neighbors also said the project is too large for Medill Street, which they said functions more like an alley than a road.
But, over time, Pluta has made improvements to the project that address neighbors’ major concerns, La Spata said.
La Spata convinced Pluta to recreate the graffiti wall. The deal was shaky at first, with Project Logan’s founders questioning if they’d have autonomy over the wall; but in recent months, Pluta and the artists reached a formal agreement both parties are happy with, La Spata and one of the crew’s founders said. The east- and north-facing walls of the development will belong to Project Logan in perpetuity.
“I consider it a win because most developers would probably not even work with that or listen to that,” Project Logan co-founder BboyB said.
Also in response to community feedback, Pluta reduced the number of parking spots from 56 to 46 and agreed to set aside more apartments as affordable housing. The current amount — 20 percent — is the minimum required for developments near public transit under the city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance.
For these reasons, La Spata said the project is worth supporting.
“It is better to act to produce the largest number of affordable housing units possible through our available tools now, than to wait and gamble on other redevelopment outcomes,” the alderman said in a statement to constituents.
La Spata is pushing the project forward over the objections of some neighbors, including Andrew Schneider, president of the neighborhood group Logan Square Preservation.
Schneider said Pluta and his development team, including local architecture firm Hanna Architects, have done nothing to improve the project’s design.
“Since this was first proposed, we’ve consistently said that this a literal copy and paste design from the same architect and same developer, and our neighborhood deserves better. Apparently, the alderman doesn’t agree with that,” Schneider said.
More broadly, the project’s “public benefit is practically non-existent,” considering Pluta is only providing the minimum affordable housing required under the city’s ordinance, Schneider said.
“The only public benefit is the art wall, which is a wonderful thing. It’s a great touchstone of culture in our community, but it’s not something I would regard as a permanent public benefit commensurate with a zoning change of this scale,” he said.
Last year, La Spata was taken to task for accepting two $500 campaign contributions from the developer, a practice often criticized as pay-to-play politics.
La Spata said he’d refund the developer’s money at the time, but as of Monday he hadn’t done so. After a Block Club reporter asked about the refund, he wrote a check to Wilmot, refunding the developer $1,000 in campaign contributions.
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