Pilsen’s largest vacant lot may be developed by Resurrection ProjectJanuary 6, 2017
By Lisa R. Jenkins
The Resurrection Project (TRP), a Pilsen-based housing non-profit, is interested in developing residential units on a long vacant, 7.85-acre site between 16th and 18th Streets and Newberry Avenue and Peoria Street, said Raul Raymundo, TRP chief executive officer.
“As a community nonprofit developer, we have expressed interest in developing this plot of land,” Raymundo said. “If we are able to develop this site directly or work in collaboration with other developers, we will work to ensure that we meet or exceed the Pilsen Land Use Committee affordable housing set-aside decree.”
The decree, put into place in 2005 by Ald. Danny Solis (25th) and the Pilsen Land Use Committee, necessitates that any new development with more than ten units requiring a zoning change must set aside at least 21% of its units to be sold for less than market value to low-income buyers.
While affordable housing definitely is needed in Pilsen, the restriction may have contributed to the land remaining vacant for years. Property Markets Group intended to refurbish the site with approximately 500 residential units.
Solis and Property Markets Group failed to reach an agreement on the percentage of units to be set aside for affordable housing: the developer offered to set aside 10% of the units as affordable, but the alderman and the community deemed that percentage unacceptable.
Raymundo said TRP would ensure its development included more than 21% affordable housing if it ends up with the land. The Pilsen Alliance community group encouraged and praised TRP for wanting to develop the area, as such a development would have tremendous impact given the shortage of affordable housing options. Pilsen Alliance also sees it as an important step that TRP is collecting resident feedback to develop the site based on community needs. The area has seen new affordable housing built for seniors, but it has a big shortage and even bigger demand for affordable housing among Pilsen’s working families.
Byron Sigcho, director of Pilsen Alliance, thinks this is a great opportunity to develop a project that would provide both affordable housing and green space.
“It will also strike a balance between private development and community oriented development that will take into account the needs of the community in order to maintain the diverse and inclusive community that we all love,” Sigcho said.
Pilsen Alliance held a community discussion recently that gave Pilsen residents the opportunity to participate in a live/online survey about land use. The top choice was affordable housing for families, followed by green space. “We agree with most community members on the need of more affordable housing for families but also that more community input is needed to develop this project,” Sigcho said.
Sigcho added that the Pilsen Land Use Committee, which oversees reviewing zoning changes and development, soon will begin calling public hearings and “opening up the process to more residents and organizations in order to have a completely transparent and inclusive process that will allow us to have a successful project after years of proposals that did not satisfy the community’s needs.”
Raymundo also chairs the Pilsen Land Use Committee. The Midwest Jesuits, an order of Roman Catholic priests, currently owns the site. TRP works to create community ownership and build community wealth through various initiatives, including housing development.
Solis did not respond to requests for comments for this article. To learn more about Pilsen Alliance and TRP, visit www.thepilsenalliance.org/ and http://resurrectionproject.org/.