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Logan Square may get another major affordable housing development

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A surface parking lot near the Logan Square Blue Line station may sprout a new affordable housing development

Flickr Creative Commons/Don Harder

As the booming Logan Square neighborhood pushes into the new year, another big proposal is brewing for the popular northwest side community. Like many other projects proposed and built in the area in recent years, this one would certainly qualify as a transit-oriented development, but unlike the other tall, dense market rate developments that have largely dominated the new construction activity in the area, this one calls for 100% affordable housing.

The plan comes from the United Neighbors of the 35th Ward—a so-called “neighbor-led independent political organization” that is chaired by Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). The group has been canvassing in recent weeks to drum up support for the plan, which would plant a new development on the surface parking lot on Emmett Street near the Blue Line station.

The Emmett Street parking lot
Google Street View

The site, along with the large plaza space along Milwaukee Avenue, were both discussed at a series of public meetings in 2014 that focused on the redevelopment of these publicly owned properties. During the meetings, hosted by then-alderman Rey Colon and the nonprofit organization Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), community members were presented with a number of different scenarios for redevelopment. The hypothetical scenarios featured proposals with a mix of uses, such as market rate housing, affordable housing, retail space, and park space. Developers who participated on a panel suggested that the focus should be on density and retail space while residents voted in favor of providing new green space and affordable housing.

One of the hypothetical scenarios presented by the MPC and drafted by Gensler for the Logan Square Blue Line plaza and Emmett Street parking lot

While the alderman is directly connected to the UN35 group, a written statement from his office suggests that this latest plan for a 100% affordable housing development on the site of the Emmett Street parking lot comes solely from the members of that group. The alderman also indicates that he participated in the meetings hosted by former alderman Rey Colon and the MPC and suggests that future public meetings will be held should any plan have the potential for moving forward.

United Neighbors of the 35th Ward (UN35) is a member-driven independent political organization, of which Alderman Ramirez-Rosa is a non-voting member. As UN35 is a political organization, their activities are organized separate from the Ward Office ... it appears that the 35th Ward residents that make up UN35 have decided to embark on a campaign to win 100% affordable housing on the Emmett Street lot. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa welcomes residents organizing on behalf of their interests, and accepts and reviews petitions from any Ward resident.

Since taking office, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa has been approached by multiple developers (for-profit and nonprofit) to discuss the Emmett Street lot. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa has used this as an opportunity to underline the community's desire for the lot (affordable housing, green space, community market) to these prospective developers. Alderman Ramirez-Rosa remains committed to developing the Emmett Street lot in accordance with the community's desire for the lot. To this extent, should any development proposal meet the community's desire laid out during the MPC process and prove to be economically viable, Alderman Ramirez-Rosa will take this proposal to the public under his 35th Ward Community-Driven Zoning and Development process.

Marta Popadiak of the United Neighbors of the 35th Ward group says that their organization is focused on community outreach and building a base of area residents who support affordable housing. “Our organization is really about engaging neighbors and dicussing affordable housing and gentrification,” Popadiak said. However, Popadiak says that there’s no specific plan or proposal being discussed for the site. “We’re a community group, not a housing developer,” Popadiak adds. “But we absolutely would love to see affordable housing built there.”

However, members of the group Logan Square Preservation say that any plan for the site should wait until details for the Bicentennial Improvements Project are ironed out.

The latest mockup of the Bicentennial Improvements Project which would reroute Milwaukee and Kedzie avenues

“We think that any proposal for this site should wait until the roadway framework is finalized,” Logan Square Preservation president Andrew Schneider said in regards to the idea of redeveloping the surface parking lot next to the Logan Square Blue Line station. Schneider says that the parking lot spans 11 city lots—nearly an acre—and that it’s still uncertain how the redesigned and rerouted roads around the square will ultimately affect the space that is now a surface parking lot.

In addition, Schneider suggests that the project be more than affordable housing. “We don’t oppose affordable housing but we don’t think that’s all that should be there,” he said. “Any new development there should be reflective of the whole community.” Schneider says that his group supports “amenities” for the site—suggesting that whatever is built at the location contribute to the community in some form. “The Logan Square Blue Line station used to be the home to the Logan Square Athletic Club,” Schneider tells us. “The whole corridor around the station used to be a thriving entertainment and commercial district and the Logan Theatre is about all that’s left of it.”