CITY HALL — Despite a parade of neighborhood activists voicing opposition, plans for a high rise development on the former site of Maryville Academy were unanimously approved Tuesday by the city's Community Development Commission.
In December, the 381-unit residential structure planned for the Clarendon/Montrose Tax Increment Financing District by JDL Development was approved by the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee after heated debate.
Tuesday's meeting of the Development Commission at City Hall was no different.
For over two hours, the commission debated the project, grilling JDL Developers representatives on the need for such a large amount of TIF dollars — $15.8 million. About 30 people spoke during the public comment session of the meeting, most against it.
"There is no reason, other than greed and arrogance, to deliver $16 million in public dollars to JDL Development for a luxury apartment building," said Tom Tresser, lead organizer of the watchdog group TIF Illumination Project.
But Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said the ward has been debating proposals for the prime lake front site on Montrose Avenue for well over three years and JDL has made changes to address objections from neighborhood activists.
"This TIF came across my desk less than one month after I took office in May 2011," said Cappleman, adding he rejected the first proposal and used neighborhood input to create parameters for development at the site.
JDL Development submitted its proposal in October of 2012.
"There were well over a dozen meetings with the 46th Ward Zoning and Development Committee along with many private groups to review this project. JDL made revisions to address the neighbors' concerns. Over the years since, residents from the neighborhood have continued to communicate their desire to see JDL's proposal move forward," Cappleman said during the meeting Tuesday.
After the unanimous vote, activists chanted "No TIFs for the rich" and "Shame on you, Cappleman" as they left the meeting.
In July of 2014, JDL announced it was redesigning its plan after pushback on several issues related to affordable housing, historic preservation and TIF funding. In 2015, JDL Development struck a deal with the owner of the Maryville Academy site that moved "the project forward," said Tressa Feher, chief of staff for Cappleman, even as the criticism continued.
Tresser, who testified at the meeting and also held a press conference, said, "I stand with my Uptown neighbors... to demand that Mayor Emanuel's rubber stamp not be used one more time by the Community Development Commission to rob taxpayers of Chicago and send millions of public dollars into private pockets."
TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.
Tresser said with the help of volunteers, the TIF Illumination Project has attended over 45 public meetings and determined the city program is "broken" and believes TIFs contributes to keeping the city segregated. Chicago was recently labeled the third most segregated city in the U.S., a decline from recent years, theTribune reported.
"We have seen how TIFs have created a variation on the hated practice of red-lining in Chicago, where poor and minority communities have been denied equal opportunity and access to credit and prosperity. Now we see TIFs hoarding dollars in wealthy communities and being used selectively for rifle-shot, clout-driven projects of little or no public merit, such as this one," Tresser said.
Activists also argued for more affordable housing in the project, but Cappleman said the neighborhood has some of the highest levels of affordable housing in the city. JDL is proposing 20 units of affordable housing, or about five percent of the planned units.
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.
"Uptown currently has 4,470 units of affordable housing. The purposed of the median average for each community area is 280 units and Uptown has well over 15 times that amount. No other community area comes close to the amount of affordable housing Uptown already has," said Cappleman arguing "under my watch we have lost none."
The $125 million project still needs approval from City Council.
CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey speaks out against TIFs:
Posted by Andy Thayer on Tuesday, January 12, 2016
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