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OK Vote on Maryville Project in Uptown Angers Affordable Housing Activists

By Josh McGhee | December 2, 2015 9:55am | Updated on December 2, 2015 4:42pm
 An aerial view rendering of the proposed JDL development.
An aerial view rendering of the proposed JDL development.
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Hartshorne Plunkard Architecture

UPTOWN — A local community group voted to approve plans for the former site of Maryville Academy, but not before hearing a spirited debate about affordable housing in the neighborhood.

The vote total was also released by Ald. James Cappleman (46th) the day after it was taken, further upsetting those uphappy with the plans for the site at Montrose and Clarendon avenues.

After more than two hours of heated debate over new, scaled-down plans, the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee silently voted Monday night. Cappleman then released the results Tuesday: 21 yes votes and four no votes. One third of the committee, 13 representatives, was absent for the vote.

"After we voted, they took all the votes, instead of reading back the results... the tangible proof isn't there anymore," said Norm Kaeseberg, who represents ONE Northside on the committee and was one of the four no votes.

"It sure seemed odd to me," said Kaeseberg, adding he didn't suspect any foul play but "considering all the crap that is going on in this city, it's just another thing to get upset with today."

Cappleman's Chief of Staff Tressa Feher said Wednesday the alderman's office typically waits to announce the results of votes. "That's what we always do. That's always been our process," she said.

The 381-unit residential structure planned for the Clarendon/Montrose TIF district by JDL Development would have about 20 units of affordable housing. Activists are looking for about 20 percent of the units to be affordable, Kaeseberg said.

Kaeseberg added that other concerns about the plan include shadows the building would cast could kill trees and the new building's effect on birds.

Kaeseberg said he voted no because he was "disappointed" with the five percent of affordable housing developers offered by developers. Twenty of the 28 units would be built on-site during the first phase, developers said.

Because the project resides in a TIF district, the five percent affordable housing meets the minimum onsite requirement. But owners would have to pay an "in lieu" fee to satisfy the city-set ideal requirement of 20 percent low-income housing. Developers would pay $5.7 million to the Chicago Low Income Trust Fund to satisfy the requirement.

"Obviously, we were shooting for more... He can opt out. It's not like we can't use the money, but we can also use that [affordable] housing in the 46th ward," Kaeseberg said.

But Cappleman countered that the funds will pay for rent subsidies to people earning 30 percent or less of the area median income.

"The 46th Ward receives more rental subsidy assistance from this fund than the combined total given to 29 other wards in" Chicago, Cappleman said in an email.

Cappleman also said he is requiring that the developer pay money upfront to the TIF district to help pay for rehabbing the Clarendon Park Community Center, 4501 N. Clarendon Avenue.

The Clarendon/Montrose TIF district currently has no funds since the property owners, the Chicago Park District and the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus are exempt from taxes, the alderman said.

"The only way TIF funds are generated at this site is to have a development on this site generate tax revenue. Therefore, I am requiring that JDL Development provide $4.6 million upfront to assist with the Clarendon Park Community Center," Cappleman said in the email.

At the Monday meeting, Cappleman said, "The park district has made it clear that they have no funding to do an extensive rehab of the [community center]."

Political activist Andy Thayer attacked the "high-end developer" for presenting plans with "lousy" options for affordable housing.

According to JDL developers, a one-bedroom apartment would go for about $2,000 per month and a two-bedroom apartment would rent for around $3,000.

Thayer said Cappleman was trying to present Uptown as Andersonville, which he claimed has become unaffordable for families because of rent increases.

"I have a lot of people in my building now who are refugees from Andersonville because their rent went up so high," said Thayer.

Marc Kaplan, a Local School Council member from Uplift Community High School, 900 W. Wilson Ave., said "the whole process is bogus to begin with because of what the composition of the [zoning and development committee] is."

"It’s a handpicked committee by the alderman. If you look at the demographics of the ward it does not represent the demographics in the ward," said Kaplan noting only that there is only one black representative in the committee.

According to 2011 statistics, the ward is about 20 percent black, 15 percent Latino and 10 percent Asian.

"It’s almost entirely property owners," added Kaplan. "Organizations like Voice of the People that have like 170 units of affordable housing in the area, they’re not represented."

Kaplan said that in a 2008 referendum, 66 percent of voters agreed that 40 percent of money from TIF districts should be used to build and preserve affordable housing. Kaplan was a member of Northside Action for Justice, the group responsible for putting it on the ballot at the time.

The Maryville development "will hinder and attack the diversity and affordability of this neighborhood," Kaplan said.


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