The recent protest at the Twin Towers construction site. Photo: Aaron Cynic
[The Chicago Reader recently launched a new weekly transportation column written by Streetsblog Chicago editor John Greenfield. This partnership will allow Streetsblog to extend the reach of our livable streets advocacy. We’ll be syndicating a portion of the column on the day it comes out online; you can read the remainder on the Reader’s website or in print. The paper hits the streets on Thursdays.]
Transit-oriented development is a progressive approach to building new housing. Densely packed units are clustered close to rapid transit, with relatively few parking spaces, making it easy for lots of residents to get around without a car. That means less driving in the neighborhood. And, since garage parking costs tens of thousands of dollars per stall and takes up precious floor space, fewer spots for cars means developers can build more apartments in a given footprint and pass on the savings to tenants, potentially boosting affordability.
So why did about 20 left-leaning activists blockade the worksite for the Twin Towers TOD project at 2293 N. Milwaukee on Saturday, April 9? They formed a human chain across the street and locked to each other via PVC tubes and concrete-filled buckets, chanting “How high’s the rent? Too damn high.” Dozens more demonstrators cheered from the sidewalks, holding signs that read “Logan Square is not for sale.”
The protest, led by Somos (“We Are”) Logan Square and Lifted Voices, made the argument that the upscale ten- and 11-story rental towers, along with a high-end six-story transit-oriented apartment building down the street, will accelerate the already rapid pace of gentrification in the neighborhood. They say the transit-friendly aspects of the buildings, both located a few minutes walk from the Blue Line’s California station, are little more than greenwashing.
“The [transit-oriented development] concept is being perverted and used as justification to allow developers to run rampant with huge luxury buildings,” says Somos spokeswoman Justine Bayod Espoz. “These developments will ultimately push the families that most rely on public transportation further and further away from the transit hubs.”
But First Ward alderman Proco Joe Moreno and others argue that, in addition to being a smart strategy for reducing car dependency, these developments will actually help longtime residents stay in the neighborhood. Ten percent of the new apartments will be affordable. And by increasing Logan Square’s housing supply, they say, the buildings will actually take pressure off the local rental market.