JEFFERSON PARK — A 100-unit mixed income apartment complex would be built in downtown Jefferson Park under a plan revealed Thursday by Ald. John Arena (45th).
Of the 100 units, 80 will be offered at rents below market rate, including 20 reserved for Chicago Housing Authority voucher-holders.
"The Northwest Side traditionally hasn't been the best participant in solving the poverty problem. It's time for us to get more serious in that effort," Arena said.
The plan includes a full floor of retail space and 62 parking spaces, all next to a 27,000-square-foot storage facility operated by Life Storage. The storage company had acquired the entire property after 2013, when the Archdiocese of Chicago stopped using the food facility to produce school lunches.
The structure would include 51 three-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom apartments, 22 one-bedrooms and 10 studios, according to Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff. Rents would range between $300 and $1,900 per month.
The development is the latest venture in Arena's years-long effort to pack more housing density into the neighborhood's business district, a campaign he calls necessary to revive business activity along a stretch of Milwaukee Avenue riddled with vacant storefronts.
The agenda translates into a neighborhood "master plan" he's developing that tapers building heights down in every direction from a 15-story apartment tower planned for the corner of Lipps Avenue and Ainslie Avenue, with the Jefferson Park Transit Center as its anchor, he said.
A smattering of residential low-rises, including a pair of four-story apartment buildings at 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. and the corner of Long Street and Argyle Avenue, are also being planned in the tower's orbit.
The Northwest Highway proposal, in addition to being denser than nearly any building currently standing on the Northwest Side, would nearly double the number of affordable housing units in Jefferson Park, Arena said. The 20 apartments would be reserved for residents earning about 60 percent of the median area income, and another 20 will be held for those earning 30 percent.
About half the apartments would be prioritized for military veterans and people with disabilities, Arena said. Ten units would be designed explicitly for wheelchair-users.
The building's manager would be able to charge reduced rents with help from to the state's low-income housing trust fund, which gives tax credits to developers who factor affordable housing into their designs.
The specter of dense buildings with affordable housing has drawn a scathing backlash from many neighbors, especially members of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association, who have lobbied hard against Arena's density agenda as long as he's pursued it, saying more multi-unit housing would make the area more congested and less desirable.
But Arena sees the project as an opportunity to offer a wide spectrum of neighbors a shot at better economic prospects, he said.
"There's absolutely a correlation between giving people stable housing and seeing their ability to improve their economic situation," Arena said.
Arena will hold a public meeting to discuss the proposal at 7 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Jefferson Park District police station, 5151 N. Milwaukee Ave.