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Chicago Fire Training Facility Rejected By Zoning Committee — But Alders Will Reconsider Plan Wednesday

The Fire seeks to build the practice facility on the vacant site of the former ABLA Homes. The Chicago Housing Authority vowed to redevelop the property with improved affordable housing in 2007, but it never happened.

Left: A rendering of the Chicago Fire's proposed $80 million training facility on the Near West Side. The campus will be built on 24 acres of vacant land on the former ABLA public homes. Right: Ald. Tom Tunney (44th)
City of Chicago; Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

CHICAGO — A plan to build a training facility for the Chicago Fire soccer team was rejected by a City Council committee Tuesday — but a mayoral ally moved to reconvene the committee Wednesday morning to reconsider the proposal.

The plan was one of dozens of measures considered by the city’s Committee on Zoning Tuesday, most of which were advanced for a full City Council vote.

The pro soccer team is seeking to build an $80 million training facility on 24.2 acres of vacant land managed by the Chicago Housing Authority. The property, which is part of Addams/Medill Park, is bound by Roosevelt Road, Ashland Avenue, 14th Street and Loomis Street.

A zoning change needed for the project to proceed was rejected 7-5 Tuesday.

But in an unusual move, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), who chairs the zoning committee, moved to recess the committee and reconsider the proposal 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, just 30 minutes before the full City Council is scheduled to meet. Several alderpeople on the committee were absent Tuesday.

“We are going to reconsider an item at the request of the alderman,” Tunney said at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. The facility mostly lies in the 28th ward, which is represented by Ald. Jason Ervin, who spoke in favor of the project.

“I didn’t know we could do that,” said Ald. Maria Hadden (49th), who voted against the measure.

Alds. Pat Dowell (3rd), Anthony Beale (9th), David Moore (17th), Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), and Felix Cardona (31st) also voted against the ordinance.

Voting in favor were: Alds. Ariel Reboyas (30th), Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), Carrie Austin (34th) and Tunney.

Credit: Provided/Chicago Plan Commission
A site plan for the proposed Chicago Fire practice facility on the Near West Side.

The Fire, owned by billionaire Joe Mansueto, seeks to build the practice facility on the vacant site of the former ABLA Homes along Taylor Street, most of which were demolished in 2007.

At the time, the Chicago Housing Authority vowed to redevelop the property with more than 2,400 units of improved affordable and mixed-use housing, partially for displaced residents. 

But most of that housing was never built, and the site has since been used as Addams/Medill Park. The plan to now set aside the land for a private sports franchise has drawn criticism from some community members and housing activists.

Fire executives and city officials attempted to assuage those concerns at a public meeting in August, touting a proposal to bring 222 mixed-use housing units back to the site as part of the third phase of its larger Roosevelt Square redevelopment. Eighty of those apartments would be for former housing authority residents. 

Credit: City of Chicago
A rendering of the Chicago Fire’s $80 million training facility on the Near West Side. The complex includes a 50,000-square-foot headquarters with locker rooms, offices, training space and a cafeteria.

Other Zoning Changes Approved

In Uptown, the zoning committee Tuesday green-lit a development that would convert American Islamic College, 640 W. Irving Park Rd., into 245 residential units. The project will also include a 22-story new construction building for senior housing.

The plan has shrunk several times after pushback from neighbors, which would have brought 495 total units and a 27-story building to the college campus. Plans for the project were first announced in early 2020.

The senior building will include 192 units, including both independent living and memory care options, zoning attorney Rolando Acosta said.

A Chicago landmark, the American Islamic College building was formerly home to the all-girls Immaculata High School.

Cappleman, who represents Uptown in City Council, spoke in favor of the project, and said the development has undergone extensive community review.

“There was a lot of give and take on both sides, scoring wins and providing concessions,” he said. “It’s also a proposal that will provide some sorely needed housing that will address the high demand we’re seeing on the North Side, especially the senior housing, which will allow a lot of seniors — I’m one of them — to age in place.”

Credit: Courtesy Buena Park Neighbors/Perkins-Eastman
Developers K Giles LLC and CA Ventures are proposing to turn the historic American Islamic College campus into a residential complex with a new, 22-story senior living tower.

In North Lawndale, the committee approved the rezoning of 15 city-owned vacant lots that will eventually be redeveloped as single-family homes.

The lots are part of a larger city partnership with the Lawndale Christian Development Center and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, which will oversee construction of the homes. Each house will be sold for around $250,000, Chicago Department of Housing staffer Brian O’Donnell said Tuesday.

The rezoning of the lots is necessary to allow ground-floor residential at each property, O’Donnell said.

The project was praised by Dowell (3rd), who said she hopes it will be a model for affordable homeownership across Chicago.

“I think this will be the first community where we can actually demonstrate that we can bring a home to market that’s under $350,000. I need to have that kind of housing in my ward…I’m really excited to see how these homes are received, how they fit into the context of the North Lawndale community,” she said.

The zoning committee also gave the thumbs up to two community health centers in Bronzeville and Brighton Park, a proposed cannabis growing facility in Brainerd, a carwash in Chatham and other measures.

All approved changes will be up for a final vote Wednesday in front of the full City Council.

Credit: Provided
A rendering of Northwestern’s proposed outpatient health center in Bronzeville on the South Side

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