New senior housing development in planning stages for Chinatown
April 8, 2017

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Chicago intends to build an eight-story building with offices, a community center, and senior housing. (Rendering courtesy City of Chicago)

By Igor Studenkov

The Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of Chicago (CCBA), one of the oldest Chinese-American advocacy organizations in the city, will demolish the Chinese Community Center at 250 W. 22nd Pl. and build an eight-story building in its place.

The first two floors will house the organization’s offices and community center programs and activities. In a major change from the current building, the six upper floors will feature a senior housing development with 92 apartments. According to CCBA documents submitted to the City of Chicago, officials expect to start construction this summer and complete the project by December 2019.

The CCBA is a nationwide Chinese-American organization that assists the Chinese-American community. Its Chicago branch began in the 1880s. In 1958, it raised funds to build the current Chinese Community Center, where it remains to this day.

CCBA president Yman Vien on May 18, 2016, submitted an application to build an eight-story building on the community center’s current lot and the surrounding lots stretching from 246 to 262 W. 22nd Pl. Because the project would be too wide and too tall to comply with the lot’s current RT4 zoning, which allows single family houses, two-flats, townhouses, and low-density multi-unit structures, she filed to change the zoning to B3-5, which covers shopping centers, big stores, retail storefronts, and structures with apartments above ground level. B3-5 zoning often covers areas along major streets.

Vien declined to comment on any details of the project. According to the documents submitted to the City, the development will have 14 studio apartments averaging 412 square feet and 76 onebedroom apartments averaging 525 square feet. All units will rent for about $2 per square foot, making studio rents about $824 a month and one-bedroom rent about $1,050 a month.

Affordable requirements

The development will fall under the City of Chicago Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO), which requires larger buildings to either meet affordable housing unit minimums or pay an inlieu fee. Under the ARO, rent must be affordable to residents earning up to 60% of the area median income. According to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, that means the rent for studios must not exceed $809 a month if the property owner pays all the utilities, $763 if the property owner pays only for heat, and $719 if the tenant pays all the utilities.

For one-bedrooms, those numbers are $866, $808, and $755. Based on square footage and other factors, CCBA’s development will need to have least nine affordable units, and at least two of them must be on-site. CCBA will put in the two on-site units, but it will pay an in-lieu fee of $350,000 for the off-site ones. The documents indicate one of the on-site units will be a 418 square foot studio, with the other a 525 square foot one-bedroom unit.

Dennis Mondero, executive director of Chinatown’s Chinese Mutual Aid Association, which Vien founded, said he supports more senior housing in the community.

“What CCBA is doing is trying to address the shortage of housing for the senior market,” he said. “We applaud any effort by anyone to try to address the needs of the community.”

Site plans submitted to the City show the first floor will have a dining hall that will take up most of the floor’s southwest portion and an equally large multi-purpose hall occupying most of the floor’s eastern half. Plans also specify a gaming room between the dining hall and the kitchen and a residential lobby just behind the reception desk. The building will feature a penthouse with an outdoor rooftop deck; the rest of the roof will have green roof infrastructure.

Adding to senior housing

The new development will join three others in Chinatown geared toward low-income seniors. CASL Senior Housing at 2108 S Princeton Ave. caps rents at 50% of the area median income. Hilliard Towers Apartments at 54 W. Cermak Rd. is a mixed-income development with 188 senior Chicago Housing Authority units, so those rents are based on tenant income.

In Chinatown Elderly Apartments at 300 W. 23rd St, most of the units are available to tenants who use Section 8 housing choice vouchers; with vouchers, tenants pay based on income, and the federal government pays the rest to the property owner.

The City Council Committee on Zoning, Landmarks, and Building Standards first considered the application for the new building and zoning change last year during its June 20, 2016, meeting. After passage, the application went before Chicago Plan Commission on Dec. 15, 2016, which approved it unanimously.

During a Jan. 23 Zoning Committee meeting, officials approved several changes, as the original application did not include affordable units nor a green roof. The application received final City Council approval on Jan. 25.