New Group Tries to Delegitimize 100% Affordable TOD Plan, Calling It “Half-Baked”

The logo for the group formed to fight the affordable TOD plan.
The logo for the group formed to fight the affordable TOD plan.

The proposal for a 100-percent affordable transit-oriented development next to the Logan Square station is getting closer to becoming a reality, although it’s facing some resistance from a recently formed neighborhood group that’s trying to undermine the plan. On April 24 at 6:30 p.m, there will be a community meeting at Logandale Middle School, 3212 West George Street, about the proposed zoning change to allow the structure on the Emmett Street parking lot, adjacent to the ‘L’ stop.

Not-for-profit affordable housing developer Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation has worked with Landon Bone Baker Architects, the Chicago Housing Authority, the city’s Department of Planning and Development, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Logan Square Preservation, and 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Rosa to develop the proposal for the lot.

The Emmett Street lot. Image: Google Maps
The Emmett Street lot. Image: Google Maps

The 100-unit building would be a mix of one, two, and three bedroom units. It would include 20 on-site parking spots, a plaza at the corner of Kedzie Avenue and Emmett, and a rooftop garden. All of the units would be affordable to Chicagoans earning at or below 60-percent of the Area Median Income, currently $35,580 per year for an individual, and $50,760 per year for a family of four.

Since 2016, residents have been organizing in support for the project, including collecting petition signatures. The idea first took root through an initiative by the Metropolitan Planning Council and then-aldermen Rey Colón to gather data and ideas for underutilized spaces near the Logan stop, including the parking lot. Workshop participants and online respondents specifically indicated a desire for housing at the Emmett Street lot and expressed an interest in making 50-100 percent of the units affordable.

Rendering of the Emmett Street project.
Rendering of the Emmett Street project.

The development is expected to cost approximately $31 million to construct, and will be financed through a combination of funding from the CHA, housing tax credits, and the Fullerton/Milwaukee TIF. In addition, the city will sell this valuable land parcel to Bickerdike for $1, which is key for making the project financially viable.

Though the development has been endorsed by a variety of neighborhood organizations, including Logan Square is Home, a coalition formed specifically in support of the project, there are some residents who aren’t so enthusiastic about the project.

Josh Hutchinson
Josh Hutchison

A group called Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development, which launched as an LLC just last week, has posted a Facebook page to outline some of their concerns with the site. One of the founders of the LLC is Josh Hutchison, an architect with firm, 34-Ten Architecture, who in 2016 proposed an open-air market on the site, a plan that included zero housing.

Most of the concerns center on what they see as a loss of public access to the site and too few parking spots “to support the community.”

The group is calling for more proposals to be considered for the site before the affordable development moves forward. On one post they write, “Tell our officials we should not be rushing through a half-baked project that does not align with community input.”

While it’s fair to share criticisms of the project, calling it “half-baked” is an attempt to delegitimize a thorough community input process. The project has been in the works for over two years with reputable organizations gathering feedback from residents. The project is also legitimized by the MPC research project that showed that residents want to build affordable housing to serve residents who are vulnerable to being displaced from Logan Square as it continues to gentrify and housing costs soar ever upward. So far, Chicago’s TOD development boom, including in Logan Square has almost entirely involved upscale apartment and condo buildings with only modest amounts of on-site affordable housing, at best. A project like this has the potential to demonstrate what equitable TOD can look like, and set a good example for other parts of the city,

Another post on the Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development page says, “The reality is that if this lot is converted and all parking eliminated, people and local businesses will suffer.” While it’s understandable that some residents have that perception, incorporating large amounts of parking in new developments drives up construction and housing costs and therefore makes the projects less equitable. It also encourages car ownership, which undermines the potential of locations near transit stations.

Creating a transit-oriented neighborhood is a multi-layered process. Arguably, the recent building spree along the Blue Line corridor in Logan Square has not been in an equitable way, as luxury TODs have sprung up on Milwaukee Avenue and single-family homes have replaced three-flats throughout the neighborhood. With this proposed 100-percent, 100-unit affordable housing development, we can finally have an example of what it means to have responsible development in Logan Square.

  • Alexander Kessler

    Don’t say it… don’t say it… don’t say it…. don’t say it…….. DON’T SAY IT…….

    Move to Schaumburg if you’re so concerned with parking.

    Damn it.

  • Jeremy

    Anyone concerned about local businesses not having enough customers should be advocating for a larger apartment complex that would bring more residents into the area.

    We don’t know when that Google maps image was taken, but that lot is almost empty and there aren’t any cars being driven on Kedzie.

  • Austin Busch

    The reality is that if this lot is converted and all parking eliminated, people and local businesses will suffer.

    If your business is located next to a 24/7, high-frequency, high-ridership CTA station, and you still rely on city parking for customers, your business model probably doesn’t make sense. If you need the parking, the storefront rent is probably cheaper in less transit-heavy neighborhoods.

  • rohmen

    The interesting thing is that Hutchinson’s proposal for the open air market didn’t seem to include any parking as well based on the concept drawings, and arguably would have been a bigger draw for auto traffic to the neighborhood given the nature of a market than a TOD building would be.

    The “lack of parking” argument seems to be an after thought getting tacked on to help stoke the fears of the anti-density crowd.

  • JacobEPeters

    as someone who walked past that lot every morning & evening for more than a year, it is rarely full & its existence induces auto trips that could have been made by transit (speaking from friends coming by CTA to get dinner at my current & previous residences, but driving to dinner when I lived near that lot)

  • Barn Owl

    “New Group Tries to Delegitimize 100% Affordable TOD Plan”

    Free Speech 101 — Disagreement with an individual or group’s public position is not an attempt to “delegitimize” that group — it’s free speech.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Calling a project “half-baked” can be an attempt to delegitimize the project, as well as an example of exercising your right to free speech. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • Jacob Wilson

    It’s not anti-density so much as anti-poor.

  • planetshwoop

    Two obvious candidates for the same treatment are the surface lots near Western. Could benefit from affordable housing, Lincoln Square could!

  • Barn Owl

    Disagreement can be part of an attempt to delegitimize a project, but I don’t see the Logan Square Neighbors for Responsible Development arguing that the developers or their supporters should not have legitimate or legal status:

    delegitimize[dee-li-jit-uh-mahyz]
    EXAMPLES|WORD ORIGIN
    verb (used with object), de·le·git·i·mized, de·le·git·i·miz·ing.
    to remove the legitimate or legal status of.

    https://www.dictionary.com/browse/delegitimize

  • rohmen

    I think there’s a strong contingent that would be just as opposed to a luxury TOD building going in at this spot, but I don’t disagree that the “affordable” part of it definitely brings even more detractors out of the wood work.

  • Courtney

    Cars don’t support a community-people do. Not everyone wants to own a car. There are plenty of successful TODs without parking that have been great assets to our city.

  • Courtney

    Lawrence Red Line too. The Jewel Osco by the Berywyn Red Line stop could easily accommodate housing. Why not have affordable housing on top of a Jewel?

  • johnaustingreenfield

    “New Group Tries to Delegitimize 100% Affordable TOD Plan,” not the plan’s developers or its supporters. This is getting tiresome, so future posts of this nature will be deleted.

  • planetshwoop

    Good one! Agree.

  • Jeremy

    The same could be said for the Jewel at Montrose & Sheridan, near the Wilson stop. The Jewel on Ashland north of Diversey isn’t near a train stop, but the Ashland bus route is one of the most used.

  • paulrandall

    One of the layers in the multi layer process is dealing with the need for residential street parking in vintage, pre 1957, neighborhoods where most of the housing stock has no on site parking. When we bake this cake that layer needs to be included. Because pweople living in these homes rely on a diminishing number of commercial lots that lease monthly spaces and residential street parking.

    The answer is not to build more structured parking, its making an effort to manage the structured and street parking we already have by surveying our neighborhood streets and increasing the amount of parking by moving curb cuts, relocating hydrants, reducing loading zones, requiring post 1957 buildings with structured parking to allow residents and owners of those spaces to lease them to the public and finding every opportunity to squeeze 5% to 10% more parking out of the streets we already have.

  • paulrandall

    Tell that to the owners of the Logan Theater.

  • Courtney

    Oh yes! I am not typically in that area but I agree. That parking lot is often empty.

    There’s a little strip mall by the Jarvis stop. It could easily be scrapped for housing.
    I recently learned the shopping area near the Howard stop was funded with TIF dollars. A better use of the funds would have been affordable housing. There’s way too much parking near the Howard stop between the parking garage and the surface lot for the strip mall.

  • Courtney

    Nah. We need to be reducing the amount of storage of private vehicles on public streets and creating more space for PEOPLE!
    We need to be coming up with a plan to have folks pay for their current “free” or subsidized parking and use those funds for protected bike lanes. Reduced fees for low-income families will be created but we also need to consider that a city that forces folks to drive is also highly inequitable.

    https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/03/amsterdam-cars-parking-spaces-bike-lanes-trees-green-left/586108/

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Thanks for clarifying that LSNRD does in fact consider the developers and the developers’ supporters “legitimate,” which surely they are. If two years of outreach and engagement was not enough, what process would you like to have seen? And if that process had happened and the 100% affordable / parking reductions were the result or outcome, would you accept it? Opponents almost always blame the “process” no matter what the process is. I guess that the lesson is as follows: it is imperative that the way we, as a city/society/culture, decide such issues (i.e. land use, or the development of an empty lot) in a manner that is 100% pre-defined, clear, consistent — and when it’s done, it’s done. Shake hands and move on, eh?

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Exactly. Sad and shameful as it is, that’s the good ol’ US of A for you!

  • Austin Busch

    The owners of the Logan Theater might want to ask Evanston’s Century movie theater if the free parking across the street has stopped customers from going to the outer suburbs instead.

    Logan Theater would probably see more return off a ride-share loading zone. Of course, they could offer to buy the parking lot from the city, for the appropriate price, which would surely be into seven figures given the lack of any public benefit. How much are those spots worth to them?

    Movies have to be one of the least-sticky industries in the neighborhood, there’s megaplexs downtown that are easy to get to, and there’s cheaper theaters in all the suburbs with cheaper prices and parking. It is pretty clearly a bad business model.

  • Austin Busch

    That lot is about to be used a staging for the RPM construction for the next 4 years. Afterwards, if their demand hasn’t seen any issues, they’d probably be pretty open to considering that.

  • Austin Busch

    Loading zones squeeze far more capacity out of a single stall than a parking space. In the span of a standard two hour meter, you can see one or two package deliveries and five or six rideshare dropoffs, maybe even a Pace paratransit stop or someone moving a couch. All of these help eliminate multiple persons’ need for a private vehicle, thus freeing up more space for others.

    Welcome to the city, pre-1957 and post-1957: you’re going to have to learn how to share.

  • rduke

    Why would someone who needs a car for their daily needs move right on top of a massive, 24-hour rapid transit station into a building with almost no parking?

  • rduke

    The only utility I’ve ever gotten out of that lot was picking up a ZipCar Ford Transit van there to go pick up a couch. I’d much rather 100 households move in and start working and spending money in the neighborhood.

  • rduke

    “too few parking spots ‘to support the community.'”

    Pathetic.

  • paulrandall

    The Logan is a neighborhood anchor. It’s an old theater and it also occupies storefront retail space. It needs all the love we can give it. We need to make sure it stays sticky. As a street parking Chicagoan I prefer to go to the Logan because I can park in Logan Square. I like the atmosphere at the Logan much better than any downtown megaplex.

  • paulrandall

    All loading zones are not the same. Some are way way too big. Some buildings have loading zones because of political influence. I’m talking about a more rigorous management of residential streets from a perspective of maximizing frontage that can be used for street parking.

    This is a reasonable, cost efficient policy. It will give us a tool we can use manage the massive reduction of privately owned cars in the future, without causing unneeded shocks in the near term, to the long term residents of TOD and TOD adjacent neighborhoods as all the commercial lots they depend on are built out with new buildings that have little or no parking.

    And BTW are you a supporter of rideshare?

  • paulrandall

    Maybe they have been living there since before you were born.

  • A sprawling Jewel-Osco in the Gold Coast was replaced by a high-rise apartment building, at Clark/Division.

  • paulrandall

    There is no valid argument for not managing street frontage as efficiently as possible. And people would pay some money for the privilege if improvements were made. And shouldn’t cyclists also contribute to the maintenance of the streets they ride on?

  • paulrandall

    Not everyone wants to own a car. People who own a car should be able to find a reasonable place to park it.

  • paulrandall

    So now you are for forcing longtime residents out of the neighborhood.

  • Jeremy

    Chicago is a city of more than 2.6 million people. If living near a 100 unit building is a burden, then yes, they should leave (for their own happiness). Why would people in the neighborhood need a parking lot, anyways?

    This reminds me of the people who live near Wrigley Field, yet complain about the crowds.

  • Jeremy

    I pay property taxes and sales taxes. I pay income tax to the state. That is my sufficient contribution to street maintenance given how much my activity deteriorates the surface (and also covers my contribution to pollution).

  • Austin Busch

    Sure, and a reasonable place is surely not next to a 24-hour transit facility. We should manage such street frontage as efficiently as possible, with parklets for the local customers and protected bike lanes for those accessing the businesses and station.

  • Austin Busch

    Hello, induced demand. It sounds like you’re someone who is exacerbating the lack of parking for local residents then, no?

  • Austin Busch

    But assuredly they haven’t been living there since before the station was opened.

    Although I’m not sure who’s been living on a vacant surface lot since before I was born. That sounds like the affordable housing crisis is worse than even I’d imagine!

  • Stan Quail

    These things are never discussed in a civil matter; why can’t people just say their points/concerns without trying to insult people? I believe it’s because the goal is simply to berate others and “win” the squabble; very few people trying to work together for the common good.

  • DoctorTecate

    How much rent is considered affordable?

  • planetshwoop

    And I forgot the Jewel adjacent to the Roosevelt station. Probably the best one!

  • planetshwoop

    So many are leaving because they are making large piles of cash selling their properties.

    If parking is important, it’s pretty clear the neighborhood is changing and going to have less of it. Affordable housing or not. It’s happening.

    (And this is happening up and down Milwaukee Ave. Jeff Park is having very similar battles.)

    The TOD law has changed how building are built, and Milwaukee Ave is the “lab” where much of this is happening outside downtown. I understand that people liked it the way it was. (So did the people who were displaced bc of rising rents, presumably.)

  • Courtney

    Sure but I don’t think everyone who owns a car is entitled to free parking. If free parking or a place to park one’s car is such a concern, move to the burbs or pay for a spot in a rented lot. Plenty of folks in the city do it.

    The city’s bus speeds are suffering due to the parking meter deal. Our streets are an asset and they shouldn’t be used as a private storage facility.

  • paulrandall

    Another advocate for displacement as long as it’s the right kind of people being displaced. SAD.

  • planetshwoop

    No, not really what I said. The neighborhood is changing — has nothing to do with the right kind of displacement. These battles are happening up and down the NW side with results differing a little by neighborhood.

  • rduke

    The Blue Line stop has been there since 1895.

  • paulrandall

    This is an atypical project.

  • paulrandall

    Logan Square was originally developed with small scale housing, SFD’s, 2 to 6 flats on one or 2 lots. At that time there would have been an extensive streetcar system now converted to bus as. These buildings, built prior to the 1957 zoning ordinance that introduced parking minimums, typically had little or no on site residential parking. People who lived in those buildings who had cars parked them on the streets.

    Today 60% of Chicago’s housing, including most of the affordable housing, is in this building stock. If we want to preserve that city, if we want to change zoning laws so we can build more of it on this model. Then we need to recognize the role that free residential street parking plays in the health of that city.

    Another benefit of free residential street parking is that it can be used to manage the transition to a future where there will be fewer privately owned cars that need to be parked. It can provide parking for people who live in new and existing buildings with reduced or no on site parking. It reduces the need for building structured parking in new buildings that will be difficult or impossible to adapt to other uses once the parking is no longer needed.

    I believe that the MPC has surveyed Logan Square and determined that 71% of households in Logan Square. These are not all rich people. Only the rich can afford $200-$400/month for an off street parking space. Free residential street parking is what makes car ownership in Chicago affordable.

    Because of the parking meter deal streets with metered parking are intensively managed to increase the amount of curb footage available for parking. This isn’t done on residential streets because the city isn’t getting paid. However if the same methods were applied to residential streets then we could increase the amount of available parking there. In the immediate neighborhood that might be enough to offset the loss of residential parking from the development of the Emmett St. Parking Lot at little cost without impacting the plan for the new housing at all.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG