PILSEN — A proposal to overhaul Pilsen’s largest vacant lot is headed to City Council.
The Chicago Plan Commission approved a plan Thursday that will guide the construction and development of the 6-acre site at 18th and Peoria streets. Planning leaders designed the plan based on feedback from neighbors in community meetings and surveys over the past few months.
The commission reviewed a draft of the plan in March. The final proposal is relatively similar to the draft, outlining 432 housing units. They would be a mix of rental- and ownership-opportunities, as well as high- and mid-rise buildings, three- and -six flats, and townhomes, officials said.
James Harris, a lead planning coordinator, said the city received about 350 comments from residents. Most people said they wanted more density and as much affordable housing as possible, Harris said.
In response to people who wanted fewer townhomes and three- and -six flats, Harris said the plan has revised language to allow some flexibility for what is built in the lower-density parts of the lot.
The vast majority of the homes and apartments would be affordable, restricted to people meeting certain income requirements and include two or more bedrooms, according to the plan.
The exact proportion of lower-cost housing remains unclear, and city officials could not confirm if 100 percent of the townhomes and apartments would be affordable, Harris said. It will depend on the developers picked for the project, Harris said.
Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said the city has created 100 percent affordable housing projects in the past. There’s “an appetite” for something similar at 18th and Peoria streets, and leaders are telling developers that, Novara said.
The plan includes recommendations from city officials based on a housing needs assessment in the area. That found that Pilsen lacks nearly 1,300 apartments for low-income residents, showing the gap this project will fill, Harris said.
The finalized framework includes four phases to build out the site.
The first would include seven-story residential high-rises along 18th Street, with commercial space on the ground floor. There could be up to 148 apartments.
Two five-story residential mid-rises would be built behind those, on either side of Peoria Street, in the second phase. There could be up to 86 apartments.
As many as 54 townhomes and three- and six-flats for sale would be in the third phase.
The final phase would include additional residential high-rises with up to 144 apartments at the northernmost end of the site along 16th Street.
There are also 2.5 acres of small parks and green spaces planned throughout the site, including a trailhead to the much-anticipated El Paseo Trail.
The plan now requires a vote from the City Council’s Committee on Zoning and the full City Council.
City Council approved the $12 million purchase of the lot in February 2022. The sale was a part of a lawsuit settlement between developer Property Markets Group and the city.
Officials and developers long have battled over the future of the lot amid debates over gentrification in the neighborhood.
Property Markets Group sued the city in 2018 after then-Ald. Danny Solis rezoned the property from residential to industrial use, effectively blocking development on the site.
The developer had proposed building 500 apartments and a park there, but residents and activists pushed back. Sigcho-Lopez, who was a Pilsen Alliance organizer and opposed the plan before being elected, said the lot should have more affordable housing than was being offered. Solis demanded at least 21 percent affordable housing at the site.
Property Markets Group tried to resurrect the project in 2019, but Sigcho-Lopez blocked it.
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