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City Farm in Old Town To Be Replaced With Mixed-Use Development

By Mina Bloom | August 4, 2015 6:26am
 City Farm in Old Town.
City Farm in Old Town.
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NEAR NORTH SIDE — Developers want to build a seven-story, mixed-use development on a lot occupied by City Farm near the site of the razed Cabrini-Green housing projects.

The mixed-use development at Clybourn Avenue and Division Street would include 84 residential units, a day-care center, retail and a restaurant, according to Peter Levavi, senior vice president at Brinshore Development, one of two developers, along with the Michaels Development Co., behind the project, which has been in the works since 2010.

[Courtesy/Brinshore Development]

[Courtesy/Brinshore Development]

In total, the development will cost around $39 million, Levavi said. Of that amount, the Chicago Community Development Commission recently approved $8.1 million in Tax Increment Finance dollars. That allocation still needs approval from the City Council in September, he added.

Tax credits needed to fund the development weren't available until this year, Levavi said.

Levavi called the development a "gateway project."

"It's at the very base of the Clybourn [Avenue] corridor. We're putting in this beautiful plaza. It's a diamond-shaped site. It'll be a big public amenity," he said. Site Design Ltd. is slated to design the plaza. The landscape architecture firm has designed everything from The Park of Lakeshore East to Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown.

Mina Bloom says one goal of City Farm was to create attractive lots:

Levavi said the city, neighborhood groups — including Near North Unity Program and the Cabrini Green Local Advisory Council — as well as Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th), whose ward includes the development, granted zoning approval "many months ago" and fully support the project. Burnett could not be immediately reached for comment.

If all goes according to plan, construction on the development would be completed by July 2017, he said.

Since 2003, the site has been home to City Farm, which harvests vegetables for the community. If the development is built, the farm will move a half a block west to Division and Larrabee streets, according to Ken Dunn, director of City Farm.

Since part of the goal of City Farm is to make vacant lots more attractive to developers, the project is welcome news for Dunn.

"We'll roll with it and move on," he said.

Plus, the folks at City Farm will get to be involved with the project. Development plans include a community garden on the second floor of the building. There will also be an apiary or a bee yard on the seventh floor, which will be similar to the one at the Chicago Cultural Center, Levavi said.

City Farm doesn't own any of the lots it operates, the Old Town lot included. And despite its close proximity to the old housing projects, the lot is not owned by the Chicago Housing Authority either — it's owned by the city, according to Levavi.

The developer wants to make the building affordable for residents. Of the 84 residential units proposed, 52 of them will be either public or affordable housing units.

There will be 26 public housing units, 16 affordable housing units for those at or below 60 percent of the area median income, 10 affordable housing units for those at or below 80 percent of the area median income and 32 market-rate units, Levavi said.

The 65-acre Cabrini-Green area is undergoing a lot of changes, with developers bidding on the land for the first time this summer.

When it was standing, the housing projects offered more than 3,600 units.

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