In the latest pushback to a proposed development at 2934 W. Medill Ave., opposition flyers have appeared throughout Logan Square in recent weeks, taped and rubber banded to houses and other buildings. The posts criticize First Ward Alderman Daniel La Spata for potentially OK’ing the development, which would preserve a neighborhood graffiti wall.
“Aren’t we all tired of big, ugly buildings?” the flyers ask. “In our opinion, this is exactly the type of development that Joe Moreno would do,” the leaflets say, referencing the First Ward’s disgraced former alderman. UPDATE: Logan Square Preservation‘s zoning committee placed the flyers in the neighborhood, the organization’s president, Andrew Schneider, told LoganSquarist via email after this article was initially published. Messages sent to the flyer’s contact email address of email@example.com had previously gone unanswered.
La Spata, who said he has not made a final decision on supporting or opposing the project, said it would bring much-needed affordable housing to the area. The development will be a five-story building with 56 units, graffiti walls to preserve the Project Logan “permission wall” and 11 units set aside for affordable housing.
Ugly Building Or NIMBY?
“There’s some folks who have feedback related to the amount of parking. There are some folks who want there to be additional affordability,” La Spata said of the opposition.
Indeed, Block Club Chicago reported on backlash La Spata faced from the community on Nov. 15, ranging from criticisms of campaign contributions the developer gave La Spata to critiques of the proposed building’s size and layout. Schneider said his group supports both Project Logan and affordable housing but that those concerns don’t justify the Medill development. “Like many others, we celebrate Project Logan, but we have already found other potential sites for it if this developer is so mean-spirited that he would hold that wall hostage in exchange for his up-zoning,” Schneider said. “This development and the alderman’s rationale are not all that different from the First Ward under Alderman Moreno: give a large up-zoning in return for some affordable units.”
La Spata linked some of the backlash to local NIMBY-ism (“not in my backyard” attitudes).
“There is an argument, though, that is just, ‘We don’t want more housing built in Logan Square.’ There are folks who prefer the idea that all of the view along this stretch are single-family homes. And to me, that is kind of an exclusionary way of promoting housing development in Logan Square,” La Spata said.
The Alderman added that the neighborhood needs greater diversity in the available housing. “We want a Logan Square that is creating and maintaining housing for folks at every income and for every household size. Whether you’re working as a barista or working as an accountant downtown, you should have housing that works for you and your family in Logan Square.” That’s not possible with only single-family homes, the alderman said.
Project Logan co-founder and curator BboyB also expressed skepticism of the opposition. “To me, if you don’t have a representative out there, willing to talk, then I don’t know. It just is kind of throwing monkey wrenches around and not helping the situation. I think that if they really do hate the building and think that it’s ugly, then put up some solutions.”
The graffiti artist added that while the proposed building may not be a work of art itself, the development’s defense of Project Logan means a lot. “I kind of agree — it’s a cookie-cutter building. It’s not the best looking building. But for me as a curator of Project Logan, it really doesn’t matter what the building looks like as long as we have walls to paint on. The future of Project Logan is also the future of the building.”
Most Affordable Units In Logan
The development at 2934 W. Medill would create more housing in a neighborhood in dire need of affordable units. The context before the COVID-19 pandemic was that full-time workers needed to make nearly $24 an hour to comfortably rent a two-bedroom apartment in Logan Square, Block Club reported in 2018. And for homeowners, property taxes are soaring.
This proposed building “has the most affordable family size, like multibedroom units, of anything that has been built in the neighborhood,” La Spata said. “More than the MiCA Towers [2733 W. Belden Ave.], the L building [Logan Square Apartment Community, 2211 N Milwaukee Ave.], the Noca Blu [2340 N. California Ave.] and even that new development being put together on Lyndale.”
Indeed, with 11 affordable units in total, this would be more affordable housing in this building alone than in all the previously mentioned buildings combined. Schneider disputed the extent of the affordable housing provided, however. “MiCa alone created twice the number of units as are proposed for this project.,” he said. “Casting these as ‘family-sized’ units also seems a stretch for two-bedroom apartments.” Schneider also questioned the inclusion of 56-space parking garage in a functional alley.
Preserving Project Logan
Historically, some concern about the development centered on potential effects for Project Logan, a famous graffiti wall located on Sacramento Avenue, near the parking lot for Liberty Bank (2392 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
When they started Project Logan, local artists Flash ABC and BboyB drew from their experience with the South Side graffiti scene to structure the wall with rotating art. Today, artists from local crews come in and do productions on the space. Over the 11 years of Project Logan’s existence, hundreds of rotating artists have contributed.
This community and aldermanic support initially came as a surprise to co-founder and curator Flash ABC. “I was ready to walk away if that is what the neighborhood wanted. I don’t want to be involved in signing any paperwork for a personal property. We do it for the love. But there was such a demand from the city and from people that love the art and people that painted the art that we’ve had three meetings and they’ve agreed to panels on the side.”
The art panels are set to be on the northern- and western-facing sections of the building. “For the first time, because they’re working with us, and we have an alderman that understands – for the first time we have an opportunity to do something that has never been done. And we did it. We created an environment for all,” said Flash ABC.
The developer has worked with La Spata’s office “hand in hand” on supporting Project Logan as part of the new building. All parties have agreed to a memorandum of understanding, creating legal rights for artists working the space, as well as holding artists accountable to keep the alley space clean.
A mural to Biz Markie at Project Logan. Photo: Marissa Fletcher
BboyB said that the developer first wanted all art to be submitted and OK’d before being put up. The developer has since moved away from this position, giving Project Logan curators full independence over the space.
“Project Logan is part of the cultural identity of our community. We have local artists who have been curating that space for more than 10 years now. It’s part of the community’s identity,” La Spata said.
“A Break From The Usual”
To La Spata, 2934 W. Medill’s development is “a break from the usual” in Logan Square development projects.
“To have a development that is more moderate in height, moderate in density, that creates affordable, family-sized units in our community but that also maintains a really critical cultural space in the neighborhood, that is a real break from how development had been moving forward in the First Ward.”
La Spata has not committed to supporting or opposing the project.
Photo: Flash ABC
“I’m fine to still review all the feedback,” he said. But he was quick to note how “the majority of folks who have responded to us are supportive of the development.”
Schneider predicted La Spata would approve the project. “With the proposed Medill development, the alderman together with the developer have presented a variety of false choices, most basically that it’s this building or something worse,” Schneider said. “For feedback, Alderman’s LaSpata’s office created a form designed to get the feedback he wanted.”
Featured image: Hanna Architects
This article was updated on Dec. 20, 2021, with quotes from Logan Square Preservation President Andrew Schneider.