Emmett St. parking lot: Open air market or 100 percent affordable housing project?

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34 ten market proposal
An market building -- or affordable housing?

Plans to redevelop the Emmett St. parking lot next to the Logan Square Blue Line station are gaining momentum — but not everyone agrees on what to build there, Curbed Chicago reports.

Architect and Logan Square resident Josh Hutchison has outlined a conceptual proposal to have an open air market built at the site where others are pitching a 100 percent affordable housing development.

Hutchison says that he and the staff at his firm, 34-Ten Architecture, have been working quietly on drafting the concept, but were going to wait until this year to unveil it. However, as chatter regarding another plan for the site grew in December, Hutchison said that he felt that he had to get it out sooner, so they released their vision earlier.

“In my mind, it seems like the alderman has his mind made up,” Hutchison said in regards to the proposal from United Neighbors of the 35th Ward to erect a 100 percent affordable housing development at the site.

Hutchison doesn’t believe that any type of housing is the best use of this city-owned property. Instead, he and his colleagues have put forth an idea for a year-round market. The draft concept reveals a market that could have an open roof during warmer months and then close when it is cold, allowing tenants and residents access and comfort all year round.

Meanwhile, members of the United Neighbors of the 35th Ward are actively pushing for an affordable housing complex. For at least a month, the group has been knocking on doors to drum up support for the project which it says represents the community’s desires.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa supports an affordable housing complex because it’s what an “overwhelming” number of residents said they wanted during a series of community meetings and surveys in 2014. More than 500 people filled out surveys as part of the community process, which was led by then-Ald. Rey Colon and the Metropolitan Planning Council.

“I think that the fact that it’s such a opportunity is why we need affordable housing here,” Logan Square community organizer and affordable housing advocate Daniel La Spata said. “There is no better way to give back to the community than having it be 100 percent affordable housing.”

Yet, Hutchison believes that there should be an open discussion on how to use this land.

“People need to see other proposals,” Hutchison says. The local architect believes that building private residences on the property only benefits the few residents who get to live there. “I strongly, strongly believe that public land remain public land for public use.”

Since taking office in February 2015, Ramirez-Rosa said he’s been approached by several developers interested in the site. So far, none of the proposals has fully met the community’s criteria, which he said is the basis for his support.

When asked to respond to neighbors like Hutchison who want to see a public amenity, Ramirez-Rosa spoke in favor of affordable housing.

“I believe affordable housing is a public use,” he said in an interview. “I believe that long-term working class residents of Logan Square have a right to remain in the community. The only way we’re going to accomplish that is with affordable housing. I’ve been unequivocal in that.”