Park Station Lofts equitable transit-oriented development breaks ground in Woodlawn
Chicago’s transit-oriented development boom has so far largely consisted of upscale buildings in affluent or gentrifying neighborhoods. However, yesterday the city’s efforts to bring the benefits of dense, ‘L’-friendly housing, with more affordable units, to lower-income communities on the South and West sides took a step forward as officials broke ground on the Park Station Lofts, a new mixed-income, mixed-use, affordable TOD that will be constructed on the southeast corner of 63rd Street and Maryland Avenue in Woodlawn, currently a vacant lot. The site is only 350 feet east of the Cottage Grove Green Line station, which will make it easier for residents to access jobs, retail and services without having to own a car.
“I am thrilled to break ground on our first affordable housing development being realized under the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot in a statement. “The Park Station Lofts will answer many housing needs of the Woodlawn community while also delivering retail space, new streetscaping, jobs, and more to this area. Importantly, this development will ensure that the long overdue influx of targeted investments in Woodlawn does not displace residents, allowing everyone to benefit from this community enhancement.”
The last sentence is a reference to the probable gentrification of the neighborhood in conjunction with the opening of the Obama Presidential Center a mile east in Jackson Park. That new amenity will likely raise property values, but also property taxes, and housing costs in the area.
Park Station Lofts will include 58 apartments, with 41 designated affordable units set aside for people making between 30 and 60 percent of the Chicagoland Area Median Income, with the rest being market-rate. The units will range from one to three bedrooms. The site is a couple blocks south of the University of Chicago and near the upcoming Obama Library Campus.
DL3 Realty and Michaels Development are leading the project. FitzGerald Associates and Brook Architecture are the project architects and Ujamaa Construction/Brown & Momen will be the general contractor. Construction is slated to wrap up by November 2023.
According to city officials, Park Station is the first new development in the neighborhood to meet the requirements of the Woodlawn Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance, passed by the City Council in 2020 to address Obama Center-related housing displacement concerns. Local alders Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Leslie Hairston (5th), working with neighbors, introduced the legislation with affordability requirements for at least 30 percent of units in new rental and for-sale housing built on city-owned vacant lots in the area to be affordable to “very low income” residents.
Park Station’s first floor will feature about 3,500 square feet of retail, two live-work spaces, a management office, and a community space. According to the city, Woodlawn’s Sunshine Enterprises will hold business development and investment classes to local business people in the building’s business center.
Financing for the $30.8 million development includes $19.4 million Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity, $5 million in Tax Increment Financing, and $6.5 million in City of Chicago HOME funds. Commonwealth Edison is chipping in about $140,000 through its Affordable Housing New Construction energy efficiency program. The tax credit syndicator Berkadia Affordable Housing Tax Credit Solutions is providing equity and debt to the project, with BMO Harris as the investor, construction lender, and permanent lender.
Woodlawn residents have reason to be concerned about being priced out of the neighborhood as it becomes more attractive to newcomers due to the Obama Center. But hopefully equitable TOD projects like Park Manor Lofts can help mitigate housing displacement pressures, while providing excellent transit access for residents.