Developer to build affordable housing in upscale Lincoln Park neighborhood

Kathy Moore has seen a lot of changes in the 42 years she's lived in Lincoln Park.

Gone are the hardware stores, smoke shops, and neighborhood pharmacies. In the late 1990's, the rooming house next door was converted to a massive single-family home, like many of the other apartment buildings on her street.

"Everybody who moved in here in the 1970s said we want to move here because of the diversity," Moore said. "[Now] every single property is a million dollar property. It's not diverse."

But community organizers in Lincoln Park hope a new development may change that.

43rd Ward Ald. Michele Smith has announced the redevelopment of Children's Memorial Hospital will reserve more than 10 percent of land for the construction of affordable housing.

McCaffery Interests Inc., which owns the 6½ acres between Fullerton and Lincoln avenues, has agreed to the proposal, and is currently looking for affordable housing developers to take on the project.

Children's Memorial Hospital
Photo: McCaffery Interests

Under the 2007 Affordable Requirements Ordinance, developers building on public land or receiving public aid are required to either build affordable housing or donate $100,000 per unit to a city-wide Housing Opportunities Fund.

Most developers choose the easier route of paying the money, which often goes toward building housing in cheaper neighborhoods or further subsidizing existing public housing.

Lincoln Park activists saw the need to expand affordable options in an otherwise expensive neighborhood.

Local churches, non-profits, and private citizens joined to form the Children’s Memorial Redevelopment Coalition, lobbying Ald. Smith and McCaffery Interests to agree to the plan.

“The people who are working on our Coalition want to bring diversity back to Lincoln Park,” said community organizer Mary Tarullo with Lakeview Action Coalition, a key member of the Redevelopment Coalition.

Under the ordinance, McCaffery is only required to reserve 10 percent of the land for affordable housing, but the Coalition is pushing for closer to 20 or 30 percent, creating around 200 rental units.

The story of Lincoln Park’s rapid gentrification is much like any other upscale Chicago neighborhood: Beginning in the 1960’s, federal and privately funded renewal projects drove up land values and pushed out predominately black and Latino low-income residents.

According to 2010 Census Data, Lincoln Park is now 92 percent white, with a medium household income of $224,792.

In more recent years, the number of affordable housing options has dwindled even further, as multi-unit apartment buildings have been rehabbed into large, single family homes.

Today, 97 percent of Lincoln Park homes are stand-alone single units. Less than five percent of Lincoln Park residents are renters, and they pay a median rate of over $2000 a month.

“There are many who work in Lincoln Park that can’t afford to live here, even though they’re serving the community,” said Erin Ryan, president of the Lakeview Action Coalition’s Board of Directors.

Both Tarullo and Ryan say the community response has been positive overall. When the plan was first introduced in 2008, commenters on then-alderman Vi Daley’s blog were adamant that the land not be used for low-income housing, citing fears it would “destroy” the neighborhood and drive out families.

Organizers have thus been careful to distinguish between affordable and low-income housing when talking to neighborhood associations, and have assured that the land will not be used for Chicago Housing Authority public housing.

The ordinance requires the housing serve those making 60 percent and below the median area income, housing many middle-class families that work in the area. Some units will also be reserved for seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

The developers are holding community-wide meetings this spring and summer about the redevelopment, and hope to finalize the plans by fall 2012.

"I know there will be concerns about what kind of affordable housing [is planned]," Moore said. "We're going to have to start focusing on some good P.R.; some good stories of people who would love this neighborhood as much as we do."

--Christie Thompson

© Community Renewal Society 2012

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