In the Spring of 2015, New York-based Property Markets Group announced plans to bring a 500-unit apartment development and green space to a vacant 7.85-acre lot in Pilsen. Dubbed ‘PMG Windy City’ the project slated for the northeast corner of 18th Street and Peoria almost immediately came under fire from members of the community. Gentrification is certainly a hot button issue in a number of Chicago neighborhoods, but the topic is perhaps no more heated than in Pilsen. While gentrification battles are typically fought along socioeconomic lines, new developments in this neighborhood are often viewed as not only a threat to Pilsen's affordability, but also its position as a culturally rich ethnic enclave.
It became clear that PMG’s Windy City plan was in trouble this February when the Pilsen Land Use Committee, a community group responsible for reviewing new development, refused to support the proposal. Following the group's decision, local Alderman Danny Solis (25th) denied the requisite zoning change needed to build the 500 proposed units. The move was precipitated by Property Markets Group refusal to abide by a Pilsen-specific on-site affordable housing requirement that state that 21 percent of units for new developments seeking a zoning change must be affordable-rate — a figure more than double than what is usually required by the city.
Last month, PMG announced it would move forward developing the massive parcel within the site’s existing mixed-use zoning classification of B3-2 which could support commercial use and as many as 300 dwelling units without a change. According to DNAinfo, the development team’s scheme to bypass Pilsen's affordable unit requirement and build as-of-right did not sit well with neighbors nor with the Alderman.
This week Solis announced the introduction of an ordinance that would re-zone the parcel at 843 W 18th Street back to its former industrial, non-residential state. The Chicago City Council's Committee on Zoning — a committee that is coincidentally chaired by Alderman Solis — would then vote on the ordinance on June 2nd before it is sent before the full Chicago City Council for final approval.
While the threat of a zoning change could see the developer finally adopt Pilsen’s affordable housing rules, the ordinance would effectively kill the project if passed. Even if the developer and Alderman can agree on an amended version of the project, any compromise may still result in significant community backlash considering the development has acted as nothing short of a lightning rod for anti-gentrification. Acquired by the Midwest Jesuits in 2009 for $6.5 million, the land is likely to remain a focal point of neighborhood controversy, be it developed by PMG or someone else down the line.
- Plan For Huge Pilsen Lot Blocked By Solis Over Lack Of Affordable Units [DNAinfo]
- Massive Pilsen Apartment Project Dead, Developer Now Plans Smaller Complex [DNAinfo]
- NY Developer Targets Pilsen for 500 Unit Apartment Complex [Curbed Chicago]
- Pilsen Moves Forward with 500-Unit Apartment Development [Curbed Chicago]
- Previous Pilsen coverage [Curbed Chicago]