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New Plans Emerge For Controversial Development Of Massive Pilsen Lot

By Stephen Gossett in News on Apr 25, 2017 5:20PM

ParkWorks / Property Markets Group

Concerns of gentrification and displacement are acute all over Pilsen. But rarely has the battle between the often-competing instincts of development and neighborhood-identity preservation played out in such an illustrative microcosm as they did in 2015 amid a proposal by developers Property Market Group. Even after Ald. Danny Solis (25th Ward) declined to approve PMG's initial development plans for a large parcel of vacant land—between Peoria Street and Newberry Avenue, and 18th Street back and 16th Street—PMG tried to push forth regardless. Only when the plot was rezoned to effectively disallow PMG's proposal did they finally acquiesce.

Duly chastened, it appears, PMG is back with brand new plans for the massive 7.85-acre lot—plans that, in a recent video overview, tout "more affordable housing than any privately funded project in Chicago's history." The development will also boast a "rent-controlled portfolio of properties," according to PMG.

Under the revamped outlines, the development, now dubbed ParkWorks, would bring 10,000 square feet of retail space plus green walkways, an art walk (hopefully they'll tap the 'hood's rich artistic tradition), public courtyards and rooftop gardens. The exact number of units remains unclear. PMG did not immediately return a request for comment, but developer Noah Gottlieb, when speaking with Curbed, did not offer a specific number or ratio for affordable vs. market-rate units. He did say that there will be fewer than 500—which was the original figure from 2015.

ParkWorks Development for Chicago from Architizer on Vimeo.

Aside from the affordability pledges, PMG appears to be making a pronounced effort to get along better with residents by also playing up what it says are the job-boosting aspects of the proposal: 66 percent of employees for the property will be from the Pilsen neighborhood; a third of employees for the retailers will be hired from the area; and construction hiring will be done on-site, according to PMG's preview materials.

It sounds like they'll have to keep stressing those mea-culpa undertones and neighborhood boons, judging by Solis' reactions. He was not immediately available to comment on Tuesday, but the alderman sounded stern in speaking with DNAinfo on Monday:

"I'm not going to rezone it for them to do a residential development, not without concessions. It's probably the biggest space now that's available in all of Pilsen and I want to make sure that we do something exceptional there, not just allow a developer to build a bunch of units there, make money and leave."

The proposal would need to surpass Pilsen's 21 percent affordable housing requirement, he said.

Meanwhile, activists are no doubt watching very closely. Pilsen Alliance, perhaps the neighborhood's most prominent grassroots anti-gentrification force, posted on Facebook: "The devil is always in the details. We will continue to demand transparency from Mr. Gottlieb and PMG. Hope they learn that campaign contributions not always get you favors in a well organized community."

Jeff Koons-y rabbit included? / Property Markets Group