Huddled beneath the awning of the Logan Square blue line stop, a group of demonstrators chanted, sang, and reenacted the story of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem to bring attention to the need for affordable housing in Logan Square.
The Occupy Palm Sunday demonstration, now in its eighth year, was coordinated by the Logan Square Ecumenical Alliance (LSEA) in partnership with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) and several other community organizations.
While in past years the event has touched on issues such as mental health and raising the minimum wage, this weekend’s rally was focused squarely on the dearth of low-cost housing options and the issue of displacement in what the organizers called a “deeply gentrified part of Chicago.”
“When I see the new condominiums built across from my church, it makes me really sad because I feel like they’re trying to push all of us out,” said Logan Square resident Angelica Perez, who moved to the neighborhood from Mexico 18 years ago. “They make all of us Latinos look like criminals and we are just here working hard and making a better life for our families.”
Perez has had to move twice in recent years after the buildings she was living in were sold to real estate developers. She said she is worried about her ability to keep her young family in the neighborhood she sees as home.
Despite such concerns and a few barbed comments about private developers, however, the mood of the demonstrators was largely upbeat, with participants singing and waving signs and palm fronds, even as they tried their best to shelter from the fierce gusts of a late-spring snowstorm.
One reason for their optimism is the development being considered for the site of the adjacent Emmett Street parking lot, where nonprofit Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation is proposing to build a 100-unit, 100 percent affordable housing complex. The building would feature a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units for families as well as commercial space for local businesses on the ground floor.
“For almost five years, our community has envisioned that… Emmett street parking lot, would be a place for people, not cars,” said Bruce Ray, pastor at Kimball Avenue United Church of Christ. “Now our dream is becoming a reality. We are here to say we support affordable housing at Emmett Street.”
The project has also been championed by 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, who spoke at the Palm Sunday demonstration. Incoming 1st Ward Alderman Daniel LaSpata was in attendance as well.
“We have been working on this proposal for many, many years,” said Ramirez-Rosa. “In the last ten years, 19,000 mostly Latinx residents have been pushed out by big developers and rising rents. And so, people in this community came together and they said we want to use publicly owned land, we want to use publicly owned dollars, to create affordable housing.”
Before it becomes a reality, the Emmett Street proposal must pass several regulatory hurdles, including a zoning change. The process is underway, and Ramirez-Rosa encouraged people to attend an upcoming community meeting on the issue, which will take place on April 24 at the Logandale Middle School (3212 W. George St.).
The hope is that, with more housing developments like the one being proposed by Bickerdike, Logan Square can continue to remain home to people from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
“I just want to let you know when I look around and I see my neighbors who are American and maybe have lived in this country for many years, I also see God in you and feel loved by you, and I feel glad we are a community together,” Perez said. “God bless you. Let’s keep fighting so we can all live here in Logan Square.”
Featured photo: Tom Vlodek