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Debate Over Affordable Housing In Pierre's Bakery Development Sparks March

By Mina Bloom | May 1, 2017 3:14pm
 Dozens of residents and community leaders marched down Kedzie Avenue to Pierre's Bakery, 2747 N. Milwaukee Ave., Monday morning to make their voices heard.
Dozens of residents and community leaders marched down Kedzie Avenue to Pierre's Bakery, 2747 N. Milwaukee Ave., Monday morning to make their voices heard.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

LOGAN SQUARE — For years, Silvia Gonzalez would routinely bring her three children to Pierre's Bakery on Milwaukee Avenue to buy cakes for all sorts of special occasions — Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, you name it.

"It was one of those places we used to love. You'd get your coffee and look at all of the pastries. They were so delicious. [We have] a lot of memories there," said Gonzalez, who has lived in the neighborhood for 29 years.

Though it's been about four years since Pierre's, 2747 N. Milwaukee Ave., closed, the pastel pink building has remained, sitting mostly empty except for during winter months when it houses the indoor Logan Square Farmers Market.

RELATED: Pierre's Bakery In Logan Square Could Become Mixed-Use Development

Now, the owner of the building wants to tear it down and build a 60-unit apartment building in its place.

The plan has sparked controversy in the neighborhood, with some residents, community leaders and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) wanting the development replacing their beloved bakery to include affordable housing in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. Other neighbors support the project, however. They say they'd prefer to see a development instead of a vacant building in the hot neighborhood.

On Monday, dozens on the side opposing the project marched down Kedzie Avenue to Pierre's in protest.

"I really think they're forgetting about the people who were here many years ago," Gonzalez said. "Those units, let's be honest, it's not for us. It's not for me. I have kids who have graduated from college. Will they be able to afford something like this? I don't think so. Having no affordable housing really impacts us because we want families to stay in our community."

Supporters of the plan point to shuttered bakery.

"This building is an eyesore on what could be a really nice block," one neighbor wrote on Neighborhood Square, DNAinfo's online community forum.

"Really disturbing to see Rosa trying to pervert the legal process by attempting to change the zoning in the middle of development in order to exert pressure on the builders to further his agenda."

Another neighbor remarked: "How does targeting a vacant bakery parcel against future development help keep people in the area?"

Anthony Quezada of United Neighbors of the 35th Ward addressing the crowd at Monday's march. [All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

Mike Fox of R.P. Fox & Associates, the developer who is responsible for renovating the Goldblatt's building at Milwaukee, Diversey and Kimball avenues, owns the site.

His proposal calls for 60 apartments, a mix of one- and two-bedrooms, as well as ground-floor retail, according to Ramirez-Rosa. It's unclear how much rents would be. Fox didn't return messages.

Fox is planning to build within current zoning parameters, which means the project doesn't require the support of Ramirez-Rosa or the community.

And the developer isn't required to include affordable housing: The city's affordable requirements ordinance doesn't apply to his project because it's not on city land and doesn't require new zoning or financial assistance from the city.

But Ramirez-Rosa introduced an ordinance that would change the zoning of the site and essentially block the project if the developer doesn't agree to reserve some apartments as affordable housing.

"I'm so furious with [Ald. Joe] Moreno for approving the high-rises on Milwaukee. It's really cool to see an alderman actually doing something," said 34-year-old resident Jessica Stites.

Anthony Quezada, a member of the United Neighbors of the 35th Ward, led the march down Kedzie Avenue with chants like, "Lucy taught us how to fight. Workers of the world unite," referring to late labor organizer Lucy Gonzalez Parsons who was honored with a street sign along Kedzie minutes earlier. The chants elicited honks and cheers from nearby workers and drivers.

Dozens of residents and community leaders marched down Kedzie to Pierre's Bakery to demand affordable housing in the development.

Once the group arrived at Pierre's, Quezada addressed the crowd: "Logan Square has seen thousands of working class families move out ever since gentrification came in. And that is one too many families who are on the verge of being homeless and we cannot allow this to go on."

He was followed by community leaders like Monica Espinoza of Logan Square Neighborhood Association, who emphasized that she and her fellow organizers are not against progress so long as the progress includes everyone in the neighborhood.

"My son goes to McAuliffe School. We're losing enrollment every year because the people who move into our neighborhood, they're not bringing their kids to our neighborhood schools," Espinoza said. "We want our schools back, we want our neighborhood back. We were here before anyone else."

Ramirez-Rosa's ordinance, which would essentially block the project, is in committee and hasn't passed yet.

But the alderman, who attended Monday's march, told DNAinfo Chicago that he's hoping it doesn't come to that. He said he's had "good conversations" with Fox about including affordable housing.

"Even with the existing zoning, I'm hopeful he'll do the right thing," the alderman previously said.