AVONDALE — As the city-led redevelopment of Avondale’s Belmont Triangle gains momentum, the local alderperson said he backs community demands to bring more affordable housing to the site to fight gentrification-fueled displacement.
Social justice organization Palenque LSNA — formerly the Logan Square Neighborhood Association — hosted a rally Monday, initially meant to push Ald. Ariel Reboyras (30th) to back an all-affordable housing model for the Belmont Triangle project. The alderperson previously agreed to support a plan with 20 percent of the housing being affordable, organizers said.
But Reboyras joined the demonstration to endorse the group’s demands and said he would fight for a much larger share of low-cost units to keep longtime residents in the neighborhood.
“I want everyone to understand that I’m with you. I have asked the Department of Planning and Development to look at 100 percent affordable housing. I will not accept 20 percent,” Reboyras said at the rally, held outside of his ward office at 3559 N. Milwaukee Ave.
After the rally, Reboyras said an all-affordable housing project will be a tall order; those developments typically require a patchwork of funding and years of planning. But he said he intends to advocate for a large percentage of affordable housing to address community leaders’ concerns around diminishing affordability in Avondale.
If a developer proposes 50 or 75 percent affordable housing, Reboyras said he’d work with them and negotiate — but 20 percent is too low. Reboyras said he also wants to see a community center and a park, along with a large grocery store, incorporated in the large development.
“One hundred percent [affordable housing] will be very difficult, but I’m standing with the community, and I understand what they’re saying. I’m going to get as much as I can,” Reboyras said.
The city recently put out a bid for proposals for the Belmont Triangle project, inviting developers to reimagine four vacant lots in the heart of Avondale: 3240-84 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3207-47 N. Pulaski Road and 3934-62 W. Belmont Ave.
With the redevelopment, city leaders and Reboyras aim to bring new life to the 4-acre site, an area that for decades was occupied by industrial buildings and businesses but has emptied out in recent years as gentrification has taken hold.
The city has hosted community meetings around the project in recent months, seeking input from neighbors on elements they’d like to see incorporated. Similar city projects have created housing, libraries, health centers and more.
Local activists and youth leaders with Palenque LSNA said they want amenities for the community like a public library, a youth center and a mental health facility, in addition to the affordable housing.
Rents are increasing in the Avondale area, and longtime residents, many of them Latinx and Polish, are being driven out of their homes, community leaders said.
A WBEZ analysis found Avondale lost nearly 5,700 Latino residents between 2021 and 2017, the most of any neighborhood. Gentrification also continues to strip Avondale of its Polish identity, as many Polish residents and businesses have left the neighborhood in recent years.
Augustin Fantauzzi, a youth leader with Palenque LSNA, said his grandmother lives near the Belmont Triangle and is struggling to pay rent and keep up with her bills.
“Many people in Avondale are in the same situation where they can’t pay rent,” Fantauzzi said. “We are asking Ald. Reboyras to stand with us because we are his people, and he has the power to change the way we live.”
Christian Urbano, a youth leader at Palenque LSNA, said he grew up in neighboring Logan Square and watched his “favorite” stores close and neighbors move out in search of cheaper rents — and he doesn’t want other people to experience the erasure of their neighborhood like he has.
“As I walk down the streets of Logan, I don’t see my people or the joy anymore. The bars that replaced mom-and-pop shops remind me that I’m not welcome in my neighborhood,” Urbano said.
It was the second Belmont Triangle rally organized by Palenque LSNA this summer. In June, members of the neighborhood organization and state Rep. Will Guzzardi held a news conference, urging the city to gather more community input before putting out a bid for developers.
Developers have until 4 p.m. Oct. 21 to submit proposals for the Belmont Triangle.
Because all of the parcels are privately owned, the city is not building the project, but rather facilitating redevelopment like it has under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative.
The city named affordable housing — along with other amenities, including open space, a library and retail — as community priorities in its 54-page request for proposals.
“Milwaukee Avenue has long been a gateway to the Northwest Side. Once a bustling retail and commercial hub, jobs and retail started to leave the area through the late 20th century, causing Avondale to lose population and business vitality. The corridor requires a catalyst to showcase its existing assets and attract new investment that fosters vibrancy and mixed-use activity,” city planners wrote.
A city spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday morning.
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