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Pilsen's Largest Vacant Site Could Be Developed By The Resurrection Project

By Stephanie Lulay | September 14, 2016 9:35am | Updated on September 14, 2016 10:34am
 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 — After a zoning change, Pilsen's largest vacant site could still be developed into housing after all — affordable housing — by one of the city's largest affordable housing non-profits. 

The Resurrection Project, a Pilsen-based housing non-profit, is interested in developing the 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street, possibly in partnership with a private developer, confirmed Raul Raymundo, Resurrection Project CEO. The group has been interested in the site for years, he said. 

"Are we interested in the site? Absolutely," said Raymundo, who also chairs the Pilsen Land Use Committee, which approves new development in the neighborhood. "And if we were so fortunate as to acquire it, we would make sure that not only 21 percent affordable housing would be done, but more than that." 

Ald. Danny Solis (25th) confirmed at least part of any new plan for the site would include more than 21 percent affordable housing and would be less dense than the 500-unit project previously pitched by developer Property Markets Group

Since, 2005, Solis and the land use committee has required 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, but Solis has approved projects with less affordable housing on site when the developer offers another benefit to the community. 

Solis' 21 percent mandate — which only applies to Pilsen, not other parts of the 25th Ward — is more than 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. 

Raymundo said Resurrection Project is working with Solis to ensure that whatever developer is chosen "does the right thing." 

"Eventually that place we believe that it needs to get developed, but we want to make sure that whoever plans development for that site adheres to 21 percent [affordable housing] set aside for the community," Raymundo said. "As the community gets better, we want to make sure that there is an opportunity for residents to benefit." 

A representative for The Midwest Jesuits, who have owned the site since 2009, declined to comment this week.

Developer Noah Gottlieb, representing developer New York-based developer Property Markets Group, also declined to comment. 

In a feud over future development at the massive vacant Pilsen site, Solis moved to rezone the property to an industrial use this summer. The alderman first announced his intention to rezone the property in May, blocking the planned residential redevelopment by developer Property Markets Group. 

At the time, Solis, a veteran alderman who serves as chairman of the Committee on Zoning, said the move would allow time for the community to develop the best plan for the site. 

“Sometimes what a community needs or what a community wants isn’t exactly what a developer is proposing," Solis said. 

In response, Property Markets Group said they were "obviously disappointed in the decision."

"Our last proposal ... consisted of a public park connecting to the new Paseo, a large-scale art garden cultivated by local residents, bike and walking paths, and contained, on site, more affordable housing units then any privately funded project in the history of the City of Chicago, amongst other community benefits," the statement from New York-based Property Markets Group said.

While Pilsen needs more affordable housing, strict restrictions on development in Pilsen has led to no private affordable housing being created, the developer said. 

Vincent Cook, representing The Midwest Jesuits said the zoning change was "“not the best use of that property."

Julio Paz of the Pilsen Land Use Committee said that the zoning change gave the committee time to find the best use for the land. The new plan will commence as "an entire community planning process," he said. 

In May, Pilsen and University Village neighbors living near the site said they didn't want to see the property rezoned to an industrial use. 

The move to rezone the property 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. 

The developers came to that decision after the Pilsen Land Use Committee nixed their plan in February to build 500 apartments at the site. 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 that requires a zoning change must provide 21 percent affordable housing on site. 

In the case of the 500-unit development, Property Markets Group proposed developing 10 percent of affordable housing units on the site, Gottlieb confirmed. 

Property Markets Group previously 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. [PMG website]

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. 

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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