• Mina Bloom
    APR 21, 2022

    Logan Square affordable housing project Encuentro Square near 606 Trail gets key city approval

    A rendering of the 187-unit affordable housing campus being built near the western end of The 606's Bloomingdale Trail. [Chicago Department of Planning and Development]

    Logan Square is primed to get nearly 90 affordable apartments on the western end of The 606’s Bloomingdale Trail — the first phase of a years-long project aimed at stopping displacement in the rapidly gentrifying area — after a key city panel approved the project this week.

    The city’s Plan Commission Thursday green-lit the first phase of the ambitious Encuentro Square development proposal, an 187-unit affordable housing campus with a public park and a community center planned for the middle of Logan Square, Humboldt Park and Hermosa. Encuentro means “the act of coming together” in Spanish.

    Construction on the first phase — a pair of affordable apartment buildings at 3745 W. Cortland St. offering a total of 89 units — is expected to begin this summer, development officials said.

    The project will now go to the city’s Committee on Zoning and full City Council for approval.

    Credit: Chicago's Department of Planning and Development
    Another view of the Encuentro Square project.

    With the project, developers Latin United Community Housing, known as LUCHA, and Evergreen Real Estate Group hope to reverse the effects of gentrification in the Logan Square area and along The Bloomingdale Trail, neighborhoods that have lost thousands of Latino residents in recent years as housing prices have skyrocketed.

    The apartments being built in the first phase, a majority of which are two- and three-bedroom units, will be for people earning 60 percent of the area median income, which is $55,920 for a family of four. Families will receive support services on site.

    There will be a lawn for gathering and a community garden, among other amenities for residents to enjoy, development officials have said.

    “I think this is an amazing model,” Comissioner Guacolda Eeyes said. “We see public and private forces developing decent, safe, high-qualify affordable housing in the community that has seen so much gentrification. I salute this project — amazing, amazing achievement.”

    RELATED: Encuentro Square, Huge Affordable Housing Project Along 606’s Bloomingdale Trail, Coming In 2022

    City commissioners also heaped praise on Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) for ushering the project to the finish line after seven years of planning and as displacement pressure has mounted in Humboldt Park and the surrounding communities.

    “I know it’s challenging trying to encourage these things to happen in these gentrifying areas, but I appreciate [Maldonado] for staying true to the people who need affordable housing and keeping his community balanced and diverse,” Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) said.

    Added Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th): “To continue to be consistent and pushing for this project over the last 7-10 years, and then finally seeing it come to fruition, especially located where it’s at, right near The 606, is just really commendable.”

    Credit: Chicago's Department of Planning and Development

    The Encuentro Square project received effusive praise for its mission and design except during public comment, when a representative from the SEIU Local union called on the developers to provide good-paying jobs to construction workers and a LUCHA employee said the project should be delayed until LUCHA recognizes the employee union forming within the organization.

    LUCHA officials didn’t comment on the union drive, but Maldonado said the nonprofit developer “doesn’t have a problem” with the effort and called for unity. The Humboldt Park alderman also said the developers would respect construction workers’ right to unionize if they choose to join SEIU Local or another union.

    “In this gentrifying community, the idea of supporting affordable housing and the idea of supporting the rights of workers to organize — they are not mutually exclusive, so we should all work together … to respect the rights of the workers,” Maldonado said, adding that the ultimate goal is to provide “more affordable housing to the very same workers who are asking to be organized.”

    The Encuentro Square affordable housing campus will take over a four-acre site that has sat vacant since the late 2000s when the old Magid Glove factory relocated.

    The Trust for Public Land, the private partner tapped to oversee The Bloomingdale Trail, bought the land in 2014 for a trail “access park.” But Maldonado said he and other community leaders fought for affordable housing, and in 2019 The Trust for Public Land sold the land to the city.

    LUCHA and Evergreen Real Estate Group have secured a patchwork of funding to bring the Encuentro Square project to life: $22.5 million in low-income housing tax credits, $9 million in tax-increment financing, $1.6 million in donation tax credits, $415,000 in grants, $5.1 million in low-interest loans, a private mortgage of $7.1 million and debt financing.

    The developers plan to build the public park and a third affordable apartment building with 100 units in the next couple of years once more funding is secured, development officials have said.

    For the next two phases, the developers will return to Plan Commission for a “courtesy review,” said the developers’ attorney, Steve Friedland with Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen.

    For the city’s presentation on Encuentro Square, go here.

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