• Alex Nitkin
    NOV 12, 2019

    City commission unlocks $10.1M in TIF funds for Logan Square affordable apartments

    Plans call for a 100-unit, all-affordable apartment complex on city-owned land near the Logan Square CTA Blue Line station. [Bickerdike Development]

    A key city panel on Tuesday cleared the way for the city to subsidize a 100-unit all-affordable housing complex in Logan Square, knocking down yet another hurdle the proposal’s years-long run-up to groundbreaking.

    The proposal by Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. envisions a seven-story building on the site of a 1.43-acre city-owned parking lot at 2602-38 N. Emmett St.

    The Chicago Plan Commission approved a measure last month allowing Bickerdike to buy the land, and on Tuesday members of the Community Development Commission endorsed the sale as well.

    The commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor, approves subsidies and oversees sales of public land inside tax-increment financing districts.

    The commission on Tuesday also inked a redevelopment agreement with Bickerdike, which is a required step before the city can award the $10.1 million in tax-increment financing the developer requested.

    The development is estimated to cost $40.1 million, according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development. The proposal is also set to draw on about $13 million in financing from the Chicago Housing Authority, as well as low-income housing tax credits issued by the city that would generate more than $10 million in equity.

    About half the units in the building would be earmarked for Chicago Housing Authority voucher holders, and the other half would be targeted to people making less than 60 percent of area median income.

    Bickerdike is aiming to finalize its funding by next spring and break ground shortly thereafter, CEO Joy Aruguete said last month.

    The proposal’s dependence on public funding and city-owned land means it still needs approval from City Council’s committees on finance and housing before it can be approved by the full council. It would also need members of the council’s zoning committee to approve a zoning change.

    The redevelopment agreement is the first step toward allowing Bickerdike to access funds from the Fullerton/Milwaukee TIF district, which traces Milwaukee Avenue from Armitage Avenue to Belmont Avenue. The district raised about $11.6 million from local property taxes in 2018 and counts approximately $19.7 million in available funds this year, according to city records. It is scheduled to expire in 2023.

    If the Finance Committee approves the agreement during its meeting next month, TIF money would begin flowing to the developer next year.

    The Bickerdike proposal’s approval marks the first time Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35) has steered tax-increment funds toward his ward since his election in 2015, he said. The alderman has called for city leaders to rein in the controversial financing tool or redirect it toward Chicago Public Schools.

    Ramirez-Rosa has been “earmarking” TIF funds for the construction of affordable housing, he told The Daily Line after the meeting Tuesday. He added that city leaders will dip back into the TIF district to fund a planned overhaul of the labyrinthine intersection that surrounds the Logan Square monument. 

    During the meeting’s public comment period on Tuesday, about a dozen neighbors and advocates spoke in support of the proposal. No one spoke in opposition.

    At least 10 people spoke out against the proposal during last month’s Plan Commission meeting, including some Logan Square neighbors, landlord Mark Fishman and preservationist Ward Miller. They testified that the proposed building was out of character with its surroundings and stole away much-needed parking from local businesses.

    When Community Development Commission Secretary Gwendolyn Butler asked Aruguete on Tuesday why some people have opposed the development, the developer said she thinks “the majority are not in favor of affordable housing.”

    “And if they are in favor of affordable housing, but they just don’t want it built on that site,” Arugete said.

    Also on Tuesday, the commission approved an agreement with developer Bernard Edelman to let him access up to $3.3 million in tax-increment financing to help fund a $14 million proposal for a self-storage facility with ground-floor retail at the corner of Waveland and Central avenues in the 36th Ward.

    The two-acre lot at 3633 N Central Ave. has been vacant since 2004, when it was one of a dozen Dominick’s grocery stores to close its doors.

    Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36) on Tuesday called the proposal a “catalyst that will bring additional investment to the area,” adding that his three predecessors had tried and failed to develop the site.

    Chicago Department of Planning and Development Comm. Maurice Cox, who is also a member of the Community Development Commission, lamented that the proposal did not spring from a master-planned neighborhood framework.

    “In an ideal world, there would be a framework for development in this neighborhood that has buy-in from community members, and that has not happened,” Cox said. “But that is not the situation I have inherited, so I am willing to take the alderman’s lead.”

    Villegas spoke up again to say he was “happy” that Cox is taking a more active role in neighborhood planning.

    “In essence, aldermen have become planners for their neighborhoods,” the alderman said. “I’m looking forward to giving those responsibilities over to the planning commissioner.”

    The commission also voted to approve the donation of 12 private parcels to Indian Marsh Park in the 10th Ward, and it authorized the sale of a city-owned property at 2912-16 West Taylor Street in the 28th Ward.

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