IRVING PARK — Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) has signed off on a nonprofit developer’s proposal to build 100 percent affordable apartments in Irving Park tailored to Indigenous people.
Affordable housing developer Full Circle Communities is partnering with Native American-led nonprofit Visionary Ventures for a seven-story building with 45 apartments at 2907 W. Irving Park Road tailored to Indigenous people.
The site is an empty lot that was downzoned by former Ald. Deb Mell in 2018, so the developer needs a zoning change from the alderwoman to move forward.
Rodriguez-Sanchez announced her support of that zoning change Friday in a letter to neighbors, some of whom have voiced concerns about the building’s height and lack of parking.
In her letter, Rodriguez-Sanchez said Full Circle Communities and Visionary Ventures are “respected affordable housing developers” and have spent two years working with city officials to develop a plan that is “responsive to the increasing housing pressures that are facing Chicago’s Native community, Irving Park and the 33rd Ward.”
“My vision for improving the ward is building communities of care and this 100 percent affordable housing development with family-sized units is a manifestation of that idea. I have no doubt that it will make our community better and stronger,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
Developers previously resisted neighbors’ questions about scaling down the building, saying the design was negotiated with the city’s Department of Planning and Development and Housing Department and that the proposed density is what would be financially feasible.
Since then, four neighborhood groups — California Park Neighborhood Association, Horner Park Neighbors, The Residents of Irving Park and Irving Park East Neighborhood Association — have been circulating a petition to try and stop the current proposal from moving forward.
The neighborhood groups argue the proposed building is too tall, there aren’t enough car parking spaces and they are concerned it will set a precedent for other developments if approved.
In response to these neighborhood groups, Rodriguez-Sanchez said earlier this week that changing the design at this stage could jeopardize highly competitive tax credits needed for construction. She reiterated that point in her letter Friday.
“It is incredibly difficult to build any amount of affordable housing in this country. It’s almost financially impossible to build small affordable housing developments, particularly in areas where land values tend to be higher,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
“Saying no to something like this may make it less likely that comparable investments — like more affordable housing — could happen in our ward in the future.”
The alderwoman said her office received “overwhelming” positive feedback on the developer’s current plan from neighbors who contacted her office.
“More than 100 people attended a public meeting on the proposal and more than 375 people took time to weigh in on this proposal,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said in her letter. “Of the more than 375 people who took the time to fill out our feedback form, either online or in-person at my office, more than 73 percent expressed their support for the proposal.”
The zoning change is the latest step in the development process. If the full City Council approves the plan, it’ll be the latest major development in the Northwest Side ward aimed at addressing rising rents and the de-conversion of two-flats into single-family homes.
The 45 new apartments in the plan are not enough to replace the total number of housing the area has last over the past 10 years Rodriguez-Sanchez said, but the developer’s plan is a “bold response” to the increasing lack of affordability in the ward.
“These demolitions and de-conversions have had ripple effects tied to the displacement we’ve experienced. A decade ago, Chicago Public Schools projected that Cleveland Elementary School would need to expand its capacity to accommodate more students by 2023,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said in her letter. “Instead, Cleveland has seen enrollment decline.”
Cleveland Elementary’s principal and Local School Council voiced their support of the plan during a virtual community meeting earlier this month.
If the full City Council approves the development, it could spur more pedestrian and cyclist improvements in the neighborhood, Rodriguez-Sanchez said in the letter.
“[A total of] 45 units of bike parking make an increase in bike usage in the area very likely. This will create an increased demand for infrastructure improvements like low-stress greenways that connect to Horner Park, California Park, and the Riverfront Trail and benefit all residents in the area,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
During the alderwoman’s first term, she shepherded the construction of the Maria Elena Sifuentes Apartments, 3557 W. Lawrence Ave., which were also built thanks to the highly competitive affordable tax credits.
“[The] 33rd Ward residents elected me to tackle the big challenges facing our communities head on. I’m so proud that I was able to bring the Maria Elena Sifuentes affordable housing development to the Albany Park area in my first term,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said. “I’m incredibly proud that Irving Park will be the first recipient of affordable housing in my second term.”
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