AVONDALE — Saying there's "no demand" for two- and three-bedroom apartments in Avondale and the surrounding area, the developer behind "The Fields" now wants to make the development a high-density studio project — similar to the "micro apartment" project in neighboring Logan Square.
But some neighbors aren't having it.
More than 50 youth leaders with the neighborhood group Logan Square Neighborhood Association protested the proposed changes late Friday afternoon at the site of the development at Diversey and Pulaski avenues.
[All photos DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]
They say the development will contribute to the "wave of gentrification" moving west from Logan Square to Avondale and Hermosa.
"The aldermen are joining the side of the developers when we're the people who put them in power," said 17-year-old Raymon Barrera.
"This alderman [31st Ward Ald. Milly Santiago] ran a campaign on transparency, but now that she's in office, she's neglected those principles she ran on. It's a disgrace," Barrera said.
Holding signs that read "logan para todos" and "upzones = displacement," Barrera and his fellow youth leaders formed a line and blocked traffic, eliciting honks of encouragement from drivers. It was the same tactic the leaders used when they blocked the 606 earlier this month in an effort to keep the momentum going for the affordable housing ordinance.
Paul Fishbein, of 4K Diversey Partners, applied to make changes to "The Fields" earlier this summer.
The original plan called for 84 live/work apartments, a mixture of one-, two- and three-bedroom units at 4000 W. Diversey Ave. as part of the massive, mixed-use development which includes Cermak Fresh Market and a host of other retailers.
By mid-July, Fishbein had changed the plans, proposing 125 apartments — mostly studios, convertibles and one-bedrooms — with no live/work requirement. His team must go back to the city for approval.
"There is no demand in the market for two- and three-bedroom units. Whoever is saying that's what they're looking for ... that's not factual," Fishbein previously told DNAinfo.
If the plan is approved, Fishbein said monthly rents would be lower, but he declined to get into specifics.
"The monthly rents [are] more in line with what the market can support," he previously said.
Yet the youth leaders, along with other neighbors, contend that studios and one-bedrooms won't accommodate the many families in the community who need two- and three-bedroom apartments.
"We've seen this happen in Logan Square, where they build studios, and we see families being displaced," said 21-year-old Aide Hernandez, who marched on Friday.
Other neighbors agree.
"There is demand for two- and three-bedroom apartments — ones that aren't priced at these ridiculous luxury price points. Normal people and families can't afford this madness," one neighbor wrote on DNAinfo's commenting platform, Neighborhood Square.
Hours before the march, Santiago announced that she will be hosting a community meeting from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, addressing a complaint by the youth leaders that she had not sought input on the proposed changes from the neighborhood.
The group wants to take the issue one step further, demanding Santiago implement a community-driven zoning process, where community members can vote on projects before they go to the Council.
The protest ended with the group marching to Santiago's office to deliver a petition in favor of a community-driven zoning process with more than 500 signatures. Her office was closed. Two police cars showed up, but most of the group already had dispersed by then.
Efforts to reach Santiago over the weekend for comment were unsuccessful.
Colin Bird, president of Hermosa Neighborhood Association, said while the meeting is a step in the right direction, the announcement of Wednesday's neighborhood meeting came later than it should have.
"It's very difficult for us, or anyone really, to make arrangements to attend this meeting on such short notice," Bird wrote in an email.
Bird's neighborhood group is demanding the developer build all of the required affordable housing units on site — rather than paying a fee, which would allow three of them to be built off-site.
It's unclear if the developer has agreed to comply. Fishbein didn't return a message Sunday.
Fishbein's 4K Diversey Partners, a contributor to Santiago's campaign, bought the massive, 1.5-million-square-foot site from Macy's in 2008, when the retailer moved out of the building. The six buildings were previously occupied by Olson Rug & Carpet (1928-1963) and Marshall Field's (1964-2004).