Affordable housing has been a growing issue in Northwest Side neighborhoods, particularly in our neighborhood. A new proposal, the Emmet Street Project, with Bickerdike Redevelopment to create an affordable housing development at 2602-2638 N. Emmett St. aims to take a crack at that problem and has been largely met with support from the community.
On April 24, nearly 500 residents crammed into Avondale-Logandale Elementary School auditorium to discuss the development plan. The meeting was held to gauge community support of the proposal, with Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa vowing to not move forward on a proposal until it received overwhelming support from the community.
The development proposal from nonprofit developer Bickerdike will look to secure 100 units of affordable housing on the city-owned parking lot, including a mix of 33-one bedrooms, 49 two-bedrooms, and 18 three bedrooms, geared at residents earning at or below 60% of the area median income. Currently, the cap is set at $35, 580 per year for an individual and $50,760 per year for a family of four.
In addition to residential units, the space will also host 4,500 sq. ft. of ground-level commercial space (aimed at local small businesses and nonprofits).
Wednesday’s meeting started off with presentations from Ramirez-Rosa, Bickerdike CEO Joy Aruguete, and Bone Baker Architect Pete Landon, who discussed extensive planning process that started with a series of meetings and surveys from 2014, as well as who these units were intended for.
“This is intended to serve people who are our teachers, our construction workers, the people who work in our hospitals, the people who serve our food,” said Aruguete. “That’s who this is for.”
Once the presentations were over, dozens of residents lined up for a chance to take the mic and share their opinions on the proposal and their connection to the neighborhood. Each resident was given a red card to show disapproval, and a green card to support a statement.
One resident was a young girl named a young girl Ashely Galvan, Youth Representive on the Logan Square Neighborhood Association board, whose family recently had to move out of Logan Square due to rising rent prices.
“My family and I were displaced from Logan Square over a year ago, and unfortunately this is a story many families have been experiencing,” Galvan said. “I support this proposal because I want my family and I to be able to come home and live in our neighborhood again.”
Another resident, John Tryneski, echoed similar sentiments, explaining how he had to move three times due to rising rent costs.
“I got married last year. We’re hoping to start a family soon and I’m worried about being able to stay here,” Tryneski said.
Tryneski also touched on another common concern brought up throughout the meeting: TIF dollars.
“Yes I do think we should look into how our TIF funds our spent,” he said. “But if you’re asking us to choose [to use TIF funds for] parking spaces over whether our neighbors can live in this community, I will choose our neighbors every time.”
While the vast majority of residents expressed their support for the proposal, some weren’t as thrilled.
Several opponents were members of the Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development, a group of Logan Square residents who want to slow down (or stop entirely) the development process and allow for other developers to place bids.
“I 100 percent agree that we should have affordable housing on this lot, but there are other things that were voted on to be on that site that we are completely ignoring,” said Sarah Maxwell, a founding member of Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development. She was quickly interrupted by someone shouting “real estate agent!”
Other members and opponents spoke, citing their disdain for the development no longer being a mixed-unit development, an idea initially floated in 2014.
While the members’ heated responses were met with a sea of disapproving red cards, no one quite drew the ire of the crowd like mega-landlord Mark Fishman.
Mere moments after grabbing the mic, Fishman was met with boos, jeers, and flurries of red cards.
Fishman, who seemed to relish the boos while struggling to speak over the frustrated crowd, cited similar sentiments to Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development members.
“While I think we do need to provide this kind of housing… what I’m really concerned about is this is a historic district. All the properties, on all sides of this neighborhood [have been worked on by] Logan Square Preservation for over thirty years to keep the continuity of the district.”
“Concrete slab really doesn’t have anything to do with historical, and that’s one of my concerns,” Fishman said over a disgruntled audience.
Despite some local opposition, the proposal has received support even from the rest of Chicago as well. First ward aldermen-elect Daniel LaSpata and 33rd alderman-elect Rossanna Rodriguez Sanchez both spoke to show their support for the development.
For anyone in the room, it was quite clear the proposal had overwhelming support amongst the crowd. Votes were tallied at the end of the meeting, and of the roughly 500 residents who attended, 350 voted “yes,” 112 voted “no,” and 35 voted “yes, with conditions.”
Alderman Ramirez-Rosa stated throughout the meeting that he will only back the zoning change if the broader community supports it, and approval for the proposal is still in the distant future. The alderman will be taking feedback on the project for two more weeks. Share your opinion about the project here.