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Is transit-oriented development finally ready to take off on Chicago’s South Side?

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How a 91-unit apartment proposal in Bronzeville could be a sign of things to come

A drawing of a white and gray apartment building with rectangular punched window openings and ground-floor retail space. The building is next to an elevated train station.
A rendering of the eight-story TOD project slated for corner of 43rd Street and Calumet Avenue.
P3 Markets/Habitat Co.

Chicago’s expanded Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance—which incentivizes housing with limited parking near mass transit—led to a surge of new apartments on the city North’s Side. That same level of investment never materialized on the South Side, but a group of developers is hoping to change things in Bronzeville.

A joint venture comprising P3 Markets and the Habitat Co. recently earned the support of Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) to turn a vacant city-owned lot near the 43rd Street Green Line stop into an eight-story, 91-unit apartment building with 22 parking spaces. The elected official tells the Chicago Sun-Times that she hopes the development could be a catalyst for the area.

Roughly one-half of the proposed apartments would be offered at market rate, while the remainder would be income-restricted affordable-rate units. The development team hopes to break ground in early 2022 and is considering building two additional 63-unit buildings as part of future phases, the Sun-Times reports.

The South Side has an abundance of vacant land near transit lines, but the majority of TOD developers have opted for more affluent, up-and-coming North Side communities such as Logan Square.

“Three-quarters of transit-oriented development activity has been clustered in the already-privileged North and Near West sides, not on the South and Southwest sides where investment along underdeveloped transit corridors could truly be catalytic,” noted Kendra Freeman, Metropolitan Planning Council director of community development and engagement, in the Chicago Reporter.

In a recent move to jumpstart more equitable investment on the city’s South and West sides, City Hall voted to expand TOD zoning eligibility from sites located next to train lines to include more than 20 high-ridership bus corridors.

For all of its popularity on the North Side, transit-oriented development is also not without its critics. Opponents have argued that the practice can accelerate gentrification, limit the supply of on-street parking, and lead to public transit overcrowding—a now-routine issue on the O’Hare Branch of the Blue Line.

It remains to be seen what kind of impact an embrace of transit-oriented development may have on Chicago’s South Side—especially within areas already building steady momentum such as Bronzeville and the communities surrounding the future home of the Obama Center, like Woodlawn.

“Forty-third Street hasn’t seen a lot of development in recent years,” Alderman Dowell told the Sun-Times. “Yet there are so many people buying and improving homes in the area.”