Construction starts on affordable housing on former CHA sites in North Lawndale

The $200M development was approved in 2018, and commercial and health care space was completed last year on one site. Now, work is underway on housing planned for the other site nearby.

SHARE Construction starts on affordable housing on former CHA sites in North Lawndale
A rendering of a housing development currently under construction in North Lawndale.

A rendering of a housing development under construction in North Lawndale. The four-story apartment building, called OC Living, is being built on the site of former CHA housing and is expected to be completed by spring 2024.

The Habitat Company/Provided

Decades after residents left and the Chicago Housing Authority complexes were leveled, dirt is being turned as part of an ongoing effort to restore a North Lawndale community.

Hundreds of apartments in two neighboring CHA properties, Ogden Courts and Lawndale Complex, were demolished in the early 2000s. The Ogden site, across from Mount Sinai Medical Center on Ogden Avenue, became a parking lot. Less than a block to the north, the Lawndale site, at 13th Street and Washtenaw Avenue, remained an overgrown vacant lot.

Until recently, that is.

Last year, commercial space was built on part of the Ogden site. And in February, work began on a four-story apartment building with dozens of apartments on the Lawndale site.

The development is the latest component of a plan to revitalize the neighborhood near Douglass Park.

Called Ogden Commons, the plan was announced in 2018, and involves developing around 120,000 square feet of commercial space on the Ogden site and also OC Living, consisting of about 300 housing units spread among several buildings on the Lawndale site.

A rendering of the early components of the Ogden Commons development planned for North Lawndale.

A rendering of early components of the Ogden Commons development planned for North Lawndale. The development is being built on two former CHA sites and includes commercial space along Ogden Avenue and OC Living, several buildings with affordable housing units at 13th Street and Washtenaw Avenue, just to the north.

The Habitat Company/Provided

The developers hope to turn the long-bald stretch of Ogden Avenue into a vibrant community for workers from the nearby medical district and Cinespace Chicago Film Studios to the south.

“The broader vision is to activate and energize the site and see it come to life,” said David Mevis, vice president of community development for The Habitat Company, the group behind the project.

The first commercial building, a 30,000 square-foot space on the 2600 block of Ogden Avenue, was completed last year and has opened to tenants, including a Sinai outpatient center, a Wintrust bank branch and a coffee shop.

The first apartment building is expected to be completed by spring 2024. It will have about 90 units. Of those, 70 will be available to people making up to 60% of the median annual income for the area which is $62,520 for a family of four. After that, 10 units will be offered at 30% of the median income ($31,250 for a family of four) and 10 will be rented at market rates.

Construction began in February on the first building of the OC Living development, a series of affordable housing buildings planned for former CHA housing sites in North Lawndale.

Construction began in February on the first building of the OC Living development, a series of affordable housing buildings planned for former CHA housing sites in North Lawndale. The first building, a four-story structure with about 90 apartment units, is expected to completed by spring 2024.

Michael Loria/Sun-Times

The land is still CHA-owned; the agency leased it to The Habitat Company for 75 years, Mevis said. The company is one of four that manages CHA sites.

About 60 of the 90 units will be one-bedroom apartments, about 10 will have two bedrooms and the rest will be studios. Amenities will include a fitness center, bike room and social services offices.

“Our hope was this will provide really high quality affordable attractive housing,” Mevis said. “There will be nice amenities for families, there will be attractive community space inside the building and a nice green space for outdoor congregating and for kids to play.”

Further developments will follow as the group gets financing, Mevis said. They hope to begin construction on an adjacent 70-unit apartment building next year, with 90% of those units affordable.

The original estimated cost for the project was $200 million, partly funded through federal Opportunity Zone tax credits. Mevis expects by the time it is complete, the total cost will have increased in the years since the project was first announced.

Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.

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