$33 million project proposed for West Humboldt Park

The residential and commercial development is from A.J. Patton of 548 Development, whose past work has drawn notice from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration.

SHARE $33 million project proposed for West Humboldt Park
A rendering of the project proposed for 3831 W. Chicago Ave.

A rendering of the project proposed for 3831 W. Chicago Ave.

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A developer whose neighborhood investments have drawn favorable reviews from City Hall plans a $33 million investment in a commercial stretch of West Humboldt Park.

A.J. Patton, CEO of 548 Development, said he has acquired property at 3831 W. Chicago Ave. where he plans a 60-unit housing development and a ground-floor grocery. The project will incorporate vacant land that is city-owned.

Patton said the building, using solar panels, will be the largest example of “passive housing” in Chicago. The term refers to housing designed for maximum energy efficiency.

His project would include triple-paned windows and increased insulation. Patton said his goal is to cut tenants’ electric bills by 50% compared with other buildings and to eliminate the need for natural gas.

“We’re solving ... multiple community issues here,” he said Tuesday. “It will be affordable, sustainable housing” built by minority-owned contractors. “We’ve been very intentional about that.”

A.J. Patton, CEO of 548 Development.

A.J. Patton, CEO of 548 Development.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Since starting with rehabs of small apartment buildings a few years ago, Patton has expanded and, as a Black entrepreneur, has prioritized hiring minority contractors. He told the Sun-Times last year he’s found financing by going around banks that bypass minority communities. The city’s top planning official, Maurice Cox, recognized his efforts, calling Patton “an up and comer.”

The Chicago Avenue site is along a business street targeted for improvement under Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West program to bring investment to neglected areas. It usually involves developers submitting competing proposals for dilapidated or underused property that owners have agreed to sell, with the city picking a winner.

In this case, Patton said he struck a deal with the property owner and contacted the city about potential subsidies. He’s due to discuss the project Wednesday with the West Humboldt Park Development Council. Patton said he’s asking city officials for $8 million in tax increment financing.

Adrienne Whitney-Boykin, executive director of the council, and Ald. Emma Mitts, whose 37th Ward includes the project, said the plan needs to be reviewed but appears to address significant needs. Whitney-Boykin said the area needs low-cost housing, while the building’s retail component could keep people from leaving the community to shop.

Patton said he will lease space for a small-format grocery combined with a bakery and café operated by Manny’s, the South Shore-based grocery that specializes in African and Caribbean products. His lead architect is Leslie Roth of Lamar Johnson Collaborative. Patton said two minority-owned firms, Milhouse Engineering & Construction and Powers & Sons Construction, will share general contracting duties.

He said he hopes to break ground in the fall and be ready to open in summer 2024. Patton declined to discuss details of his land acquisition, which includes one-story industrial buildings he’ll demolish. Property records indicate the owner is Denis Vulich, who could not be reached for comment.

Peter Strazzabosco, spokesman for the city’s Planning Department, said the deal still needs city approvals for a zoning change and any subsidies. But he called it an example of private investment being spurred by Invest South/West.

A parcel about two blocks east of Patton’s site is getting a $25.3 million residential and commercial development under the program’s bidding process.

Patton has been awarded three other parcels under the Invest South/West program, the largest being the 21-acre former dump at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue. He plans industrial buildings there with one of the city’s largest developers, Related Midwest.

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