PILSEN — A Pilsen group is protesting the Midwest Jesuits' planned sale of property in Pilsen that could see 500 rental units built at the site.
During a news conference outside the Midwest Jesuits headquarters Friday in Lincoln Park, Nelson Soza, executive director of Pilsen Alliance, said that the project would accelerate the gentrification in the neighborhood, hurting poor families in the process.
New York-based Property Markets Group plans to develop 500 rental units on 6.4 acres of a vacant 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street, Ald. Danny Solis confirmed to DNAinfo Chicago last week.
In a statement, Pilsen resident Jose Guerra said the development is "gentrification on steroids."
"But the priests don’t even want to talk to the people they are going to hurt,” the statement continued. “Do they know that Jesus kicked the moneymakers out of the temple?”
Jeremy Langford, a spokesman for Midwest Jesuits, the Roman Catholic order that owns the property, met with Pilsen Alliance members after the protest Friday.
In a statement, Langford confirmed the sale of the property to Property Markets Group is under contract.
"Property Markets Group has assured [the Jesuits] that PMG is the appropriate entity to address details regarding any proposed plans for the property, and PMG is committed to a process that includes engaging with the Pilsen community over proposed plans," Langford wrote.
The developer, who is planning a mix of one, two and three-bedroom units, will meet with a Pilsen development committee in the next two weeks, Solis said. If the development committee approves the project, the developer will meet with the entire community about the plan.
Property Markets Group plans to develop 500 rental units on a vacant 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street in Pilsen. [PMG website]
The Jesuits bought the land for $6.5 million in 2009.
The Roman Catholic order owns a significant amount of property in the neighborhood, including St. Procopius Church and School and Cristo Rey High School in Pilsen and St. Ignatius High School on the Near West Side. The order also operates Loyola University on the North Side and Loyola Academy in the suburbs.
Last week, Pilsen Alliance board member Byron Sigcho, who ran against Solis in the aldermanic election this spring, said that the group has been trying to reach Midwest Jesuits to discuss plans for the lot — which will affect the neighborhood’s "most vulnerable communities" — for years.
“As a Catholic parishioner in Pilsen and someone who was educated in the Jesuit spirit of social justice, I am extremely disappointed in your lack of response to even meet with the community, with the poor and those of us who will be affected by this plan,” Sigcho wrote in a letter.
Solis previously said he was concerned 500 units would be too many, but praised the developer for including 1.5 acres of green space at the site.
"They're pushing a lot of bikes, art, murals and sculptures. There's a few things that I like," Solis said last week. "I want to see what the community wants first."
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