Plan for 2nd migrant tent camp at donated Jewel, parking lot clears City Council committee

Under pressure to get migrants off the floors of police stations and airports, the committee acted over the objections of South Side Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st).

SHARE Plan for 2nd migrant tent camp at donated Jewel, parking lot clears City Council committee
El Comité de Vivienda acordó el lunes aceptar el edificio de 6.5 acres y 67,797 pies cuadrados, donado por Albertsons Cos, empresa propietaria de Jewel, que había operado la tienda en las calles 115th y Halsted.

A Chicago City Council committee on Monday voted to accept a donation of 6.5 acres of land, including this vacant Jewel grocery store, at 115th and Halsted streets, to temporarily house migrants.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Over objections from local Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st), a Chicago City Council committee agreed Monday to accept the donation of a vacant grocery store and parking lot at 115th and Halsted streets and to transform it into a winterized base camp for asylum-seekers.

Normally, council members defer to each others’ wishes on ward land-use issues.

But apparently the need to get thousands of migrants off the floors at Chicago police stations and O’Hare Airport is more pressing than preserving the unwritten rule known as aldermanic prerogative.

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The Housing Committee agreed Monday to accept the 6.5 acres and 67,797-square-foot building donated by Albertsons Cos, parent firm of Jewel, which had operated the grocery store.

“The City of Chicago has been identifying viable sites across the city to stand up base camps as an alternative to new arrivals sleeping outdoors and on the floors of O’Hare Airport and police stations as winter fast approaches. The site at 115th and Halsted appears viable, and the intention is to stand up a base camp on the site,” the Johnson administration said in a statement.

“The City will soon begin performing work on the site to confirm the underlying infrastructure’s viability before initiating construction. The City will notify residents as to the outcome of this final assessment and will share further operations details prior to placing any individuals into the facilities. At the conclusion of the base camp mission, the City intends to transfer ownership of the site to a local community development corporation and fully provide support for the development of affordable housing and retail space on the site.”

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Johnson’s Council floor leader, said the decision to accept Albertsons’ offer was a no-brainer.

“How do you say ‘no’ to free land that will eventually be redeveloped and added back to the tax rolls?” Ramirez-Rosa texted the Sun-Times.

Mosley did not attend the committee meeting and could not be reached.

In a statement issued before Monday’s vote, the freshman alderperson said he was “highly disappointed” the city moved forward with plans for a shelter at that site.

“Last month, after our community expressed multiple concerns about this shelter, I co-sponsored an ordinance that addressed these concerns and advocated for aldermen to receive a 30-day notice of intentions to house migrants in their communities. Unfortunately, those have not yet passed,” Mosley was quoted as saying.

Declaring his Far South Side Ward “will not tolerate the prioritization of a crisis over our needs and voices,” Mosley went on make several demands, including:

  • A “full commitment” to break ground on the mixed-use project, officially known as Morgan Park Commons, in 2024 “at the same site.”
  • Completion of the Beverly Ridge housing development.
  • Temporary shelter for Chicagoans “so residents of this community can become more housing secure.”
  • A commitment to turn up the heat on President Joe Biden and Congress to deliver the “necessary federal dollars and resources available, but not given, forcing our city to attempt to solve a nationwide issue with strained resources.”

  • Unspecified capital improvements “required” at Julian High School.
  • Beautification of the 21st Ward.

“There are still many questions about safety, time-lines and care for our own residents that have not been answered,” Mosley is quoted as saying in the statement. “The 21st Ward deserves answers to these questions, and I will continue to fight for a true commitment and investment in our community from this administration.”

Also Monday, Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) said he had learned the city is considering housing migrants in his ward, at the Hotel Chicago, 333 N. Dearborn St. in River North.

In an email, Reilly said he is “vehemently opposed” to the plan, saying it will do “irreparable harm” to the community.

The migrant crisis that has seen 19,500 asylum-seekers arrive in Chicago has exacerbated historic political tensions between Blacks and Hispanics.

The growing divide was on display last month when Mosley led an often-tense ward meeting about the proposal at a church kitty-corner from the potential tent site.

Residents packed the church to raise concerns about background checks, whether migrants had been vaccinated, where they would learn English, how the tent city would be kept clean and if it would affect property values.

They expressed frustration with the amount being spent to house and feed the migrants, saying there are homeless and food-insecure individuals across the city, particularly in Black neighborhoods that have historically suffered from disinvestment.

Mosley had assured his constituents on that night the site “doesn’t work” for a migrant shelter.

Against that backdrop, Ramirez-Rosa was asked why Mosley’s concerns had been ignored.

“Mosley opposes the shelter, but he supports the Morgan Commons development and supports the acquisition of the land for the Morgan Commons development. A clear commitment was made … that the acquisition of the land will lead to the Morgan Commons development,” Ramirez-Rosa texted the Sun-Times. “The city acquiring the land is the first step toward redeveloping the land for the benefit of the community.”

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