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City opts for housing and commercial mix at 4 development sites

Officials announce the projects chosen for vacant or underutilized sites on busy streets in New City, Bronzeville, North Lawndale and South Chicago.

A proposal would bring affordable apartments and a business hub to city-owned land at 1515 W. 47th St.
A proposal would bring affordable apartments and a business hub to city-owned land at 1515 W. 47th St.
Provided

City officials, selecting four development proposals for vacant or underused property, said Monday the projects will refresh the housing stock and energize their surroundings on the South and West sides.

The developments on four commercial corridors will represent a private investment of $125 million and create more than 200 residences, officials said. They announced the winners of a second round of sites the city offered in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West effort. The sites are in New City, Bronzeville, North Lawndale and South Chicago.

Lightfoot revealed the selections during a news conference at Back of the Yards College Prep, 2111 W. 47th St., complete with live performances and musical interludes.

She reiterated the talking points that she used after the first-round selections in March. Chicago is “something larger than the downtown area,” even though it’s been the focal point for development for decades under her predecessors. And the selections were made from the ground up — not from the top-down.

“We did not design Invest South/West to be a project cooked up on the fifth floor of City Hall and then brought to neighborhoods for you to thank us for … our generosity. That’s not what this is about,” she said.

The winners were chosen from 15 applicants for the corridors. The proposals were so strong that the city has started conversations with runner-up applicants about projects that could be worth another $75 million, said Maurice Cox, Chicago’s planning commissioner.

Cox said city staff favored proposals to blend business and residential space. With the mix of uses, “you almost guarantee the vibrancy of the street,” he said. The land is mostly city-owned but with some private owners who are willing to sell, Cox said. Terms of the city land sales must be finalized and approved by the City Council.

“We’ve been really successful in using publicly owned property to catalyze private interest,” Cox said. “By and large, we gravitated to projects that tried to create a public realm.”

The chosen development teams are minority-led or have significant minority partnerships. Groundbreakings could start in spring 2022. The projects could account for about 300 permanent jobs, officials said.

The winners:

New City A $51.5 million joint venture of Celadon Partners and the Blackwood Group. It calls for building a 50-unit affordable apartment building with a business hub and youth programming space at 1515 W. 47th St. Later phases would include renovating a building at 4701 S. Ashland Ave. into 30 senior apartments with a coffee shop plus other improvements in the vicinity.

A portion of a development proposed for 47th Street and Vincennes Avenue.
A portion of a development proposed for 47th Street and Vincennes Avenue.
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Bronzeville — A $19.5 million joint venture of KMW Communities and LG Development with Bronzeville Community Partners. On the southwest corner of 47th Street and Vincennes Avenue, they would build six stories containing 25 mixed-income apartments and 12,000 square feet of commercial space.

A joint venture’s $31.4 million plan for housing, commercial space and a community center on Ogden Avenue in North Lawndale.
A joint venture’s $31.4 million plan for housing, commercial space and a community center on Ogden Avenue in North Lawndale.
Provided

North Lawndale — A $31.4 million proposal from GRE Ventures, Imagine Group and 548 Development. On an acre along Ogden Avenue between Homan and Trumbull avenues, they would build 60 mixed-income apartments, three market-rate townhomes, commercial space and a community center.

This South Chicago project calls for a new building and a renovated older building on the 8800 block of South Commercial Avenue.
This South Chicago project calls for a new building and a renovated older building on the 8800 block of South Commercial Avenue.
Provided

South Chicago — A $23.5 million project from 548 Development on the 8800 block of South Commercial Avenue. The block would get a new four-story building with 35 mixed-income units and a renovated three-story building with 10 mixed-income units. A café, business center and bike shop are included.

The city issued its request for proposals targeting the four sites last winter. Staff from the Department of Planning and Development evaluated the responses and solicited community feedback before making the final call. Winners were picked based on factors that included developer experience, minority investment, financial viability and design elements for community needs.

Joint ventures that weren’t chosen for deals in Bronzeville and North Lawndale are being considered for projects on nearby land. One could involve a new hotel on Ogden, officials said.

Cox said the city is working with the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which acquires vacant or dilapidated property.

Last March, the city chose developers for commercial stretches in Auburn Gresham, Austin and Englewood. Responses for a third round of RFPs are due Aug. 31 and apply to two sites in Humboldt Park and one in South Shore.

The RFP process frees the city to consider many factors in picking a buyer for its land and not just select the highest bidder.

Lightfoot said the city is encouraging investments that will change people’s perceptions about their neighborhoods.

“I want to leave no doubt to anybody who is here, any future projects, to the entire city. We’re here for the long haul with you to revitalize these communities,” she said. “And we want to make sure that our investments not just have immediate impact, but generational impact. That’s what this is about.”