PILSEN — A Pilsen alderman plans to reject a controversial plan to build a 30-story apartment tower in Pilsen.
Contending that the massive tower "wouldn't be a good fit" for the neighborhood, Ald. Danny Solis (25th) told DNAinfo this week that he won't support the $60 million project.
"The problem is I'm not sure if it fits in at that end of the neighborhood so close to the industrial corridor," the veteran alderman said.
While Solis said the height of the proposed tower was "not a big issue," Solis noted that the area is home to some industrial businesses, including Welsch Ready Mix, a concrete supplier at 2330 S. Morgan St. The corridor also borders Pilsen's Planned Manufacturing District 11.
"It would stick out like a sore thumb. ... The main issue is where [the developer] is proposing it," he said.
Joseph Cacciatore, CEO of real estate firm Joseph Cacciatore & Co., plans to build a 30-story tower at 2180 S. Canalport Ave. next to Lacuna Artist Lofts, Crain's Chicago first reported this week. Cacciatore also owns the Lacuna Lofts building, home to workspaces for artists and small business owners, which is currently for sale for $35 million.
If approved, the project, called Punta Lacuna, would bring 208 new apartments to the neighborhood, Cacciatore confirmed. Plans call for studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units and 210 parking spaces to be developed at the site.
If approved, Punta Lacuna in Pilsen could include a pool deck. [Joseph Cacciatore]
Market-rate studio units, at 675-825 square feet, would rent for $1,250 per month; one-bedroom units, at 1,200 square feet, would rent for $1,900 per month; two-bedroom units, at 1,100-1,425 square feet, would rent for $2,500 per month.
The developer is seeking a zoning change from a commercial/manufacturing use to a residential use. Currently, housing is not allowed on the site.
The Pilsen Land Use Committee, which reviewed the tower proposal in fall 2016, also rejected the plan, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. Solis said he typically agrees with the group's recommendations when considering new development in the area.
In their recommendation to the alderman, the committee wrote that the site is better suited for industrial and commercial uses, which could bring jobs to the area, rather than a new residential use.
Cermak Road and Canalport are heavily traveled by commercial trucks headed to the expressways, and the committee did not believe it was wise to set a precedent by allowing residential developments in the area, the group's spokeswoman said.
But Cacciatore said there's a strong demand for new housing in the area.
"I would not be displacing anyone. I would be adding housing stock to a community that's in dire need," he said.
Affordable housing requirement
As part of his pitch, Cacciatore said he would agree to Pilsen's stringent affordable housing mandate, which requires that a minimum of 21 percent of all new developments to be designated as affordable housing units.
Under plans, 43 of the apartments would be "affordable," Cacciatore said. An affordable studio would rent for $1,000 a month, an affordable one-bedroom would rent for $1,300 and an affordable two-bedroom would rent for $1,600 per month.
The city defines affordable rental housing as an apartment that is affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of area median income.
While the alderman appreciates Cacciatore's commitment to affordable housing, Solis said the project still doesn't "fit in" in the area.
Around 2005, at the request of the community, Solis and the land use committee developed a mandate in an effort to preserve affordable housing in the area. The rule applies to new developments of 10 or more units that seek zoning changes from the city or use city land or subsidies.
Solis' 21 percent mandate — which only applies to Pilsen, not other parts of the 25th Ward — is 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.
Solis has blocked other proposed Pilsen developments over the strict affordable housing mandate, including the controversial Property Markets Group ParkWorks project that aims to bring 465 new apartments to Pilsen's largest vacant site.
And in other cases, the Pilsen Land Use Committee has relaxed the Pilsen affordable housing rules when the developer offered another significant community benefit.
In 2016, the committee and Solis approved plans for a 99-unit apartment building at 21st and Laflin streets with 10 percent affordable housing — less than the Pilsen Land Use Committee's 21 percent affordable housing mandate. The committee approved that plan because the developer donated an acre of land to nearby Benito Juarez Community Academy for sports fields.
The Pilsen Land Use Committee is made up of leaders from Pilsen groups that include The Resurrection Project, Alivio Medical Center, Eighteen Street Development Corporation and Pilsen Neighbors Community Council.