Uptown Committee Votes On $220M TIF Project

By Adeshina Emmanuel on March 2, 2013 8:11am 

UPTOWN — An advisory committee created by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) approved three measures in JDL Development's $220 million plan for a luxury living complex by the lake — but big questions remain.

The project is proposed in the Montrose/Clarendon Tax Increment Finance district, at the former site of Maryville Academy.

This week, the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee voted to approve JDL's request for $32 million in TIF assistance, compromised on the percentage of units in the 842-unit development that would be designated as "affordable," and voted in favor of demolishing Cuneo Memorial Hospital.

Officials said that JDL would incorporate the committee’s recommendations into the plan. The committee is set to take a final advisory vote on the project by April 29. Cappleman will give the final yea or nay before the plan goes to the city.

JDL's $32 Million TIF Request

Some committee members complained about a lack of transparency in JDL's $32 million request, which only explains that $6 million would be used to renovate the dilapidated Clarendon Park field house nearby — an amount that some people think should be increased.

The $6 million is just enough to bring the field house "up to code," said Abby Sullivan, a Cappleman aide.

When it comes to the other $26 million — neither the developer nor Cappleman's office has provided a breakdown of where the public dollars would go; however, TIF expenses are not required to be explicitly detailed. Committee members ultimately voted to endorse the developer's request, but said they wanted those details revealed soon.

Clarendon Park Neighbors' said that TIF use "should directly benefit Clarendon Park for both repairs and improvements to the maximum extent possible, before a developer gets TIF dollars to improve its profit margin.”

While some were apprehensive about supporting JDL’s request without knowing how the money would be spent, real estate agent Mark Zipperer, a member of the committee, said in a statement that “we should use as much TIF as we need to," to renovate the field house, "improve infrastructure,” and "help JDL's numbers work."

"That area of Uptown is blighted, so we have to use TIF money to encourage development in that part of the community; that's what I meant by that statement," he later told DNAinfo.com Chicago.

Zipperer mentioned that most committee members are chosen by their organizations, block clubs or buildings — but Cappleman sought his real estate savvy and personally invited him to join "as one of his personal selections."

The Affordable Housing ‘Compromise’

The committee voted to compromise on the number of units designated as affordable, deciding on 10 percent.

The Organization of the Northeast (ONE), a coalition of social service and activist groups, has argued for months that JDL should meet the full requirement of affordable units in a TIF district.

Chicago ordinances require that 20 percent of the rental units in a residential project requesting TIF assistance be dedicated to affordable housing. That is, unless developers pay a city trust fund $100,000 per affordable unit not built.

"Do we need any more reduced-rate housing in the area? Absolutely not," Zipperer told said. "People should live where they can afford to live. That's affordable housing."

JDL leadership has previously said there is "too much" affordable housing in Uptown.

The city defines rent as affordable when a household earning 60 percent of the Area Median Income ($44,160 annually for a household of four and $30,960 a year for a one-person household) can reasonably pay it. ONE wants a 40 percent of median income threshold ($20,640 for a one-person household and $29,440 for a family of four).

Affordable housing "is a bad word" in Uptown, said Mallory Green, ONE's representative at the meeting last week. She said some critics worry about attracting “vagrants” and “criminals."

“What they’re not understanding is that affordable housing allows many different types of people to live in our neighborhood. I think there’s a disconnect," Green said.

Curtains for Cuneo?

The fate of the historic, possibly damaged Cuneo Memorial Hosptial may be sealed after the committee voted to raze the building and donate it to the park district, despite opposition from Preservation Chicago and pro-Cuneo group, Friends of Cuneo.

Tressa Feher, Cappleman's chief of staff, acknowledged that no independent site evaluation was conducted in recent years.

Friends of Cuneo member Melanie Eckner said she remains "hopeful that there will be a formal, independent evaluation of Cuneo with respect to reuse," before "any final demolition decision.”

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