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Developer unveils reworked proposal for large Pilsen site

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A new plan for Pilsen would see the creation of new park space, retail, and affordable housing units

Property Markets Group/Cordogan, Clark & Associates

After a controversial first attempt at proposing a major mixed-use development for the Pilsen community, developer Property Markets Group has returned with a new plan which its principal, Noah Gottlieb, claims would create more affordable housing than any other privately funded development in the history of Chicago. The new plan, titled ParkWorks, would see the creation of several new buildings which would deliver hundreds of new residences over a 7.85-acre site in the Pilsen neighborhood.

The proposal originally surfaced in April 2015, calling for 500 units for the site which is bound by the upcoming Paseo Trail on the west, South Newberry Avenue on the east, 16th Street on the north, and 18th street on the south. However, the development team’s attempt to bypass Pilsen's stringent 21% affordable unit mandate and build as-of-right led to a breakdown between the developer and the alderman. Last summer, 25th Ward Alderman Danny Solis formally announced intentions to block the proposed development.

The site occupies two full blocks in the Pilsen community.
Property Markets Group

Gottlieb tells us that his team has acknowledged that the number one issue community members have with his company’s plan is the concern over displacement. “We are doing a lot of things that are a win-win for everyone involved and we hope that the new plan demonstrates our desire to be a good community partner,” Gottlieb suggests. “Our ability to be a good neighbor is not just about how much affordable housing we provide. We have a plan to create jobs and help families afford the cost of living.”

The proposal includes about 10,000 square feet of commercial space for retail users, which Gottlieb suggests could employ up to 100 people. To encourage retail tenants to hire locally, Gottlieb says that Property Markets Group will offer a discount of up to 20% on the cost of rent if business owners hire one-third or more of its staff from within the community. In addition, the developer will offer on-site hiring during the construction period of ParkWorks and will give area residents priority for full-time and part-time property management jobs.

In terms of density, Gottlieb suggests that the ParkWorks plan as proposed would be less dense than surrounding blocks. The plan would also see that 50% of the 7.85-acre site is turned into open green space. The firm has produced a video in both English and Spanish which illustrates the proposal’s scale and design. “The idea is that the whole site feels like a park that happens to have some retail and residences plopped on it,” Gottlieb tells us.

The proposal has been master planned at a pedestrian scale and intersecting walkways would be created to allow for easy access to public transit hubs. There’s also a public art component planned, as Gottlieb indicates plans for a “living wall” installation along 18th Street and Peoria. Cordogan, Clark & Associates, a firm that is currently working with Property Markets Group on an upcoming development nearby in University Village, has been tapped to lead the design and planning duties for the proposed ParkWorks.

But more than anything, Gottlieb says that he hopes that the latest plan sparks a new dialogue among Pilsen residents and community stakeholders. Gottlieb claims that the new proposal “attacks the issue of displacement” by creating new affordable housing, new job opportunities, and by offering a sort of “rent control” for residents living in the existing housing on the site.

Property Markets Group/Cordogan, Clark & Associates

As far as the total number of residences and the makeup of market-rate and affordable units, Gottlieb declined to offer details or hard figures. However, the developer says the new plan will be smaller in scale and in total units than its original 500-unit plan from two years ago.