PILSEN — About 75 neighbors living near a massive vacant site in Pilsen don't want to see the property rezoned to an industrial use.
At a meeting at La Catrina Café this week, Pilsen and University Village neighbors largely agreed that they did not want the 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street to house an industrial building. Earlier this month, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) announced plans to rezone the property, blocking the developer's planned redevelopment of the massive site.
"Instead of just zoning it without a plan, we need to know all of the facts behind it. If we're changing it, is there a developer that wants to come in?" asked Corey Tanzer, a University Village neighbor.
Nancy Plax, director of community outreach at Connecting4Communities, said there's a need for more family-sized units in the area.
"We are against an empty lot. And if you have industrial development, you have less housing," Plax said. "We have such a wonderful opportunity here to build something phenomenal and also keep the cultural integrity of Pilsen."
Byron Sigcho, executive director of the Pilsen Alliance, said the meeting sparked a conversation about the amount of affordable housing that is needed in the area.
"I think we can have something that is great for both neighborhoods," Sigcho said.
'Haven't made final decision'
On Wednesday, Solis, who was not at the meeting, said that he has not decided if he will push the proposed rezoning at a Committee on Zoning meeting June 2.
Developer Noah Gottlieb of Property Markets Group met again with the Pilsen Land Use Committee this week, and Solis is slated to meet with the Midwest Jesuits, the group that owns the site, the Alderman said.
"I haven't completely made up my mind," Solis said. "I haven't made a final decision."
Gottlieb, who was also not at the meeting, and Raul Reymundo, head of the Pilsen Land Use Committee, did not return calls Wednesday.
The move to rezone the property came after the developer announced in April that it would still develop the property without a zoning change. Gottlieb said that the group would still buy the site, and instead of 500 apartment, a smaller mixed-use project would be developed that meets the site's current zoning rules.
The developers came to that decision after the Pilsen Land Use Committee nixed their plan to build 500 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.
"Unfortunately the developer did not show good faith,” Solis said earlier this month. “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.
The property cannot accept any new permits while undergoing the zoning change, a Solis spokesman said.
In spring 2015, Property Markets Group 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 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 100 people have signed a petition in favor of developing the site.
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