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As Rents Skyrocket in Logan Square, Landlord M. Fishman Defends Steep Hikes

By Paul Biasco | March 25, 2016 6:11am | Updated on March 25, 2016 10:03am
 Logan Square Rent Increases
Logan Square Rent Increases
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LOGAN SQUARE — Estefania Salgado and her boyfriend have lived in their one-bedroom apartment for the last five years, paying around $800 a month, but might soon have to pay nearly double that to stay in their home.

Last month she received a 30-day notice to sign a lease for $1,450 plus utilities — or leave the apartment owned M. Fishman & Co.

The rent increase follows a pattern, according to renters in those buildings and housing rights activists in the neighborhood. They point to a number of similar moves Fishman has made in recent years, buying large multiunit apartment buildings, rehabbing them and significantly raising rents.

Reporter Paul Biasco talks about dramatic rent increases in Logan Square.

RELATED: Logan Square's Future: Development Boom Changing Face of Neighborhood

Local housing groups, such as Somos Logan Square, have referred to the practice as "mass evictions," while others cite market demand and a changing neighborhood.

"We all kind of knew the name. What person in Logan Square doesn’t know that name?" Salgado said of M. Fishman & Co. "A lot of tenants saved those letters [we received when he bought the building], where he said he couldn’t wait to meet with us and talk with us, and two months later it's 'You have 30 days to get out.'”

Mark Fishman, who owns about 80 properties in Logan Square, bought Salgado's building at 2700 N. Milwaukee Ave. and the sister building across the street at 2715 N. Milwaukee late last year.

He's the fourth or fifth entity to own the buildings in the last five years.

Fishman, who bought his first building in the neighborhood 26 years ago, argues that he has helped the community thrive by investing in Logan Square long before the neighborhood became a highly desirable place to live.

"I believe the fundamentals of real estate were (and are) as good as it gets: excellent building stock, plentiful green space and transportation," he wrote in an email to DNAinfo Chicago. "I have the same feelings and excitement that I did 26 years ago when I purchased my first building — the boulevard system in Logan Square truly sets it apart from any other area in the city."

Fishman, who has made few comments to the media over the years, said previous ownership had allowed the last two buildings he bought on Milwaukee Avenue to fall into substantial disrepair.

"This reinvestment in Logan Square building stock is important toward the continued growth and vibrancy of our neighborhood, but also speaks to the pride that we take in our community," he said.

While tenants admit their units had problems before Fishman took over, they said the rents were stable and allowed them, many working-class residents, to stay in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.

Salgado wasn't the only tenant to get hit with a substantial rent increase. Numerous other tenants whose leases are up in the next month or two have been told their rents will jump anywhere from $300 a month for a studio to $600 a month for a one-bedroom.

Those whose rents haven't gone up are likely to face similar increases when their leases expire.

Fishman has not met with the renters but is sending them a letter Friday laying out his position.

Salgado said it's been hard to get answers in the meantime.

"They continue to ignore our calls. They continue to ignore our emails. They aren’t even willing to talk to us,” Salgado said. "We at least just want answers from him."

Dozens of renters in two Logan Square buildings owned by Fishman, some of whom have formed a tenants union, plan to fight the rent increases. They say the improvements to the buildings don't justify such a steep hike.

Tenants hung a banner from the side of the building facing Milwaukee Avenue Sunday afternoon that read "MASS EVICTION IN PROGRESS." They have also posted fliers around the neighborhood and are planning a march Saturday afternoon.

A number of housing rights groups and local religious leaders are expected to march with the tenants during the rally, which will kick off at at 11:30 a.m. at Palmer Square Park.

The march will end at the Logan Square Theatre, which Fishman bought and renovated in 2012.

"It seems like he wants to make Logan Square some upscale neighborhood," said 29-year-old Jessie Adrignola, who lives in a studio with her boyfriend. "Right now it's great because of all the different kinds of people that live there, but he is forcing so many people out. He's just trying to get this whole gentrification thing going."

Adrignola's rent is going to jump from $740 to $1,100 per month.

"We pretty much live in a s--- hole, but we like it because its cheap," she said. "We don’t mind living in not the greatest of buildings because we are right in the heart of Logan Square, and we love it. It’s a beautiful community and has lots of culture, and that’s what we care about."

Both buildings are less than a block from a Blue Line stop and are on a block that is seeing an influx of new businesses, including the expanded Dill Pickle Co-Op, the Harding Tavern and Hopewell Brewing Co.

A representative from Fishman argued the developer has made efforts to help maintain the character of the neighborhood and helped maintain affordable housing stock in Logan Square.

Those efforts include a HUD building at Milwaukee, Kedzie and Logan where he renewed leases for low-income tenants. Fishman has about 25 percent affordable units in his buildings citywide, according to a spokesman, which is far more than the 10 percent required by the city.

The issue of affordable housing has been at the forefront of discussions in the neighborhood in the last few years as a number of luxury residential developments have been built and rents have increased across the neighborhood.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who ran on a progressive platform in 2015, has pushed for affordable housing.

Ramirez-Rosa has stepped into the conflict between Fishman and his tenants, who coincidentally live above Ramirez-Rosa's storefront aldermanic office at 2710 N. Sawyer Ave.

The alderman met with the tenants and has been trying to broker a meeting between them and Fishman.

"Mr. Fishman has a PR problem in the community, and the reason why he has a PR problem in the community is because of nasty things he has done," Ramirez-Rosa said. "I think what we need to understand is we need responsible landlords that are committed to working with their tenants, particularly those that are of low income and are long-term residents of Logan Square."

Ramirez-Rosa said Fishman hasn't made significant repairs to the building.

“I think to move into a building and not do any substantial improvements and turn around and say 'we are raising your rent' is callous and wrong,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

Fishman, though, isn't the only one raising rents in the hot neighborhood.

Numerous other landlords in the area have requested smaller increases.

Allison Fine, who has lived in a studio near Wrightwood and Sawyer working as a writer for eight years, was recently informed her rent was increasing from $800 per month to $1,000 per month.

Allison Fine, 67, is being forced to move out of the studio she has lived in for the last eight years. [DNAinfo/Paul Biasco]

"This, of course, is a way of evicting someone without evicting them, by pricing them out of their home, such as it is," Fine said. "This, of course, is not just about me."

Fine said she doesn't know what to do, but is looking at studios across the city.

"As a senior age 67, I am now having to pack up all that I own and move out of my home after eight years here," she said. "Many others, including small businesses, are also facing the same consequences."


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