By Ariel Parrella-Aureli, Block Club Chicago
Supporters of a planned Emmett Street affordable housing complex say they aren’t worried about a lawsuit filed by a group of Logan Square property owners that aims to block the development.
The lawsuit, filed by prolific Northwest Side landlord Mark Fishman among others, takes aim at city leaders and the nonprofit Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, which plans to begin construction this year on a seven-story, all-affordable complex at 2602-38 N. Emmett St.
In the lawsuit, a group called Neighbors for Responsible Development claim the project, which will be next to the Logan Square Blue Line station, would have a “substantial … negative impact” on the neighborhood by taking parking spaces off the map.
But supporters of the plan expect the suit to be thrown out and said the community overwhelmingly supports the affordable development.
“A similar lawsuit was made against the Zapata apartments in Logan Square in 2010 and that lawsuit failed,” the Logan Square Neighborhood Association said in a statement.
The group has been fighting for more affordable housing in the area for more than six years and said just “a handful” of neighbors are opposed to it.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build 100 homes for families right next to public transit,” the Logan Square Neighborhood Association said in a statement. “We’ve collected 1,248 signatures in support of the proposal, 385 residents voted in person in favor of the zoning change and we brought together 112 organizations to support this project.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35), an affordable housing advocate who has championed Bickerdike’s proposal, said in an email he has been in communication with the nonprofit housing developer about the complaint and is hopeful it will be dismissed soon.
“This all-affordable development is the culmination of a years-long community input process that resulted in the overwhelming majority of Logan Square and 35th Ward residents expressing their support for this all-affordable development to replace the Emmett Street parking lot,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “Our working families have waited long enough for this affordable housing.”
Andrew Schneider, president of Logan Square Preservation, agreed.
The lawsuit “is ill-advised because it continues to push that dynamic of division,” Schneider said. “I wish there was a path for us all to move forward as a community.”
The lawsuit also claims the Bickerdike project is too large and using out-of-character materials, but Schneider said it is compatible with most buildings nearby — including the former Megamall site, which has been turned into luxury apartments and retail.
“From our perspective, this project is not all that different than the Megamall [and] we tried our very best to make it compatible with the neighborhood,” Schneider said. “This building is not entirely out of character of the historically built environment.”
Glen Metros, the co-owner of Shop 1021 at 2650 N. Milwaukee Ave. — whose property owner is one of the landlords suing — is not opposed to the affordable housing coming to Emmett Street. He said the project will reduce parking availability — not that it’s too big of an issue for him.
“I will look for [street parking for] 10 seconds and if there is nothing open, I will park in that lot,” Metros said. “I do think it will take parking away.”
Margot Harrington, who doesn’t live in Logan Square but visits at least once a week, said she parks in the lot during winter when she doesn’t bike. She said while it’s sometimes hard to find street parking, housing seems more important.
“If they need to get rid of the parking to make it easier for people to live here, that would be great, too,” Harrington said.
Ald. Daniel La Spata (1) is among the chorus calling for the suit’s dismissal.
“While I can understand the frustration of being in the minority who do not want to see working families remain in this part of Logan Square, they cannot claim they weren’t heard,” La Spata said. “We’ve seen lawsuits against affordable housing in the past in our community. They were dismissed before and I’m confident and hopeful this one will be as well.”