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Plan For Huge Pilsen Lot Blocked By Solis Over Lack Of Affordable Units

By Stephanie Lulay | May 10, 2016 11:17am
 Ald. Danny Solis announced plans to rezone a massive Pilsen lot in an effort to block a developer's planned redevelopment of the property Tuesday.
Ald. Danny Solis announced plans to rezone a massive Pilsen lot in an effort to block a developer's planned redevelopment of the property Tuesday.
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dnainfo/Stephanie Lulay

PILSEN — In a feud over future development at a massive vacant lot in Pilsen, the ward's alderman announced plans to rezone the site Tuesday. 

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), chairman of the Committee on Zoning, said the move would block a developer's planned redevelopment of the 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street. 

The move comes after developer Property Markets Group announced in April that it would still develop the property without a zoning change. Developer Noah Gottlieb said that they would still buy the site, and instead of 500 apartments, a smaller mixed-use project would be developed that meets the site's current zoning rules. 

 Property Markets Group had planned to develop 500 rental units on a vacant at 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street in Pilsen. This plan, though, has been shelved.
Property Markets Group had planned to develop 500 rental units on a vacant at 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street in Pilsen. This plan, though, has been shelved.
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PMG website

The developers came to that decision after the Pilsen Land Use Committee nixed their plan to build 500 apartments at the apartments at the site in February. The sticking point that led the committee to deny the 500-unit project plan was Pilsen's stringent affordable housing mandate, which requires any development of eight or more units and that requires a zoning change must provide 21 percent affordable housing on site. 

RELATED: 500-Unit Complex Unlikely To Get Alderman's OK

Solis said Tuesday that development in Pilsen needs to be done responsibly. 

"Unfortunately the developer did not show good faith,” Solis said. “I have always taken affordable housing very seriously and this property must abide by this requirement to win the approval of the community.”

Solis introduced the ordinance to rezone the property from residential to its original industrial use on April 26. The Committee on Zoning will vote on the proposed change June 2. If the rezoning ordinance passes the committee, which Solis chairs, it will go to City Council for a full vote. 

All property owners within 250 feet of the development will be notified at least 15 days prior to the hearing date, where they can attend and testify for or against rezoning. 

The current property cannot accept any new permits while undergoing the zoning change, a Solis spokesman said. 

Gottlieb could not immediately be reached Tuesday. In a separate deal, the developer said he plans to develop about 50 affordable housing units for families in Pilsen, but declined to say where the site is located. 

Solis said Tuesday that Gottlieb has not discussed the affordable housing project with him.

Raul Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project and a member of the Pilsen Land Use Committee, applauded Solis' decision to rezone the property. 

"This site and proposed developments has created tremendous controversy and emotions in the neighborhood,” Raymundo said. “The Alderman’s action will allow the community to thoughtfully create a plan for the site that conforms to the community’s character and vitally. No one wants to see this site vacant in perpetuity.”

Pilsen's affordable housing mandate 

Around 2005, at the request of the community, Solis and the land use committee developed a mandate requiring a minimum of 21 percent of all new developments to be designated as affordable housing units. The rule applies to new developments of 10 or more units that seek zoning changes from the city or use city land or subsidies, Solis said.

Solis' 21 percent mandate — which only applies to Pilsen, not other parts of the 25th Ward — is double the city's mandate requiring 10 percent of new developments to be affordable housing units. Developers can also skirt the city's rules by opting to make a payment to a city affordable housing fund. 

"It's true that no other [area] in the city is asking for 21 percent. It's unique to Pilsen," Solis said in February. "But that's what the community wants and what I feel the community needs." 

After the Pilsen Land Use Committee denied PMG's 500-unit plan, Solis said he would not support the plan to rezone the property, effectively killing plans to build 500 apartments there. Solis also serves as chairman of City Council's Committee on Zoning. 

In Spring 2015, PMG revealed plans to develop 500 apartments on the vacant Pilsen property. The developer wanted a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units at the site. 

The proposed development site is owned by The Midwest Jesuits, who bought the land for $6.5 million in 2009.

In May 2015, Pilsen Alliance protested the Midwest Jesuits' planned sale of property in front of the Roman Catholic order's headquarters, calling the plan "gentrification on steroids." 

Meanwhile, some University Village neighbors who live nearby are pushing for the long-vacant site to be developed soon. About 80 have signed a petition in favor of developing the site.

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