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Humboldt Park Veterans Housing Proposal Draws Mayoral Backing, Mudslinging

By Darryl Holliday | December 11, 2014 8:24am
 A new proposal includes $1.5 million in loans for the 65th Infantry Building but protest is mounting.
A new proposal includes $1.5 million in loans for the 65th Infantry Building but protest is mounting.
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HUMBOLDT PARK — Financial backing for new affordable housing units was announced from the Mayor’s Office this week, but pressure for and against the project is amping up in Humboldt Park ahead of a community meeting and final decision. 

Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced a financial package to the City Council on Wednesday for the 65th Infantry Borinqueneers Building, a proposal from the Hispanic Housing Development Corp. that would construct 49 affordable units on the one-acre lot at 1045 N. Sacramento Blvd.

If approved, financial support from the city would include a $1.5 million loan, low income housing tax credits, an energy grant from the state and a private mortgage loan, according to a statement from the Mayor’s Office.

But one neighborhood group says the four-story building is getting green-lit without community input despite being a proposal that would permanently "change the dynamic of the neighborhood."

“While we support affordable housing and care for our veterans in our community, we are concerned by the lack of communication and outreach about this planned rezoning and development,” reads a petition from the Humboldt Neighbors Association to Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th).

Accusations and a counter petition quickly followed from the Puerto Rican Cultural Center Wednesday night urging protest to the protest.

"See [the] attached racist online petition ... it's time to stand up for our community," reads an email sent to members of the cultural center's mailing list, noting six lines from the petition it claims are "coded racist language." 

The new 42.6 million veterans building would be named after the 65th Infantry, a Puerto Rican regiment of the U.S. Army that was awarded a Congressional Gold Medal in June for more than a century of heroism and service. The complex would include a mix of one, two, and three-bedroom apartments for veterans earning up to 60 percent of area median income, according to the Mayor’s Office.

The proposed site includes 30 lots owned by and located around Norwegian American Hospital, 1044 N. Francisco Ave., but members of Humboldt Neighbors Association say the rezoning proposal exceeds the number of parcels needed for the veterans housing building, potentially allowing for future developments of a similar size and scope.

The group also called the building’s developer and general contractor into question, citing a “poor track record” for both Hispanic Housing Development Corporation and Tropic Construction, respectively.

A wide array of building code violations are filed for several of Hispanic Housing Development Corp.'s other Chicago locations, including missing carbon monoxide detectors, damaged floors and stairwells, “worn out and unsanitary” carpets, water damaged ceilings, missing fire extinguishers, broken lights and reports of tenants using stoves for heat, according to inspections from the Department of Buildings.

The proposed building in Humboldt Park would contain a fitness room, community space, computer center, library and offices, according to the Mayor’s Office. Social services would include case management, employment training and support groups for veterans’ needs, along with health services provided by nearby Norwegian American Hospital.

A review of the proposal is expected from the city’s Planning Commission on Dec. 18. A community meeting on the proposal will be held Dec. 17 at the Humboldt Park field house, 1400 N. Sacramento Blvd., at 5:30 p.m.

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