As part of a new strategy to preserve the culture, character and affordability of the Midwest’s largest Mexican community, City Council today approved an Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) Pilot to increase the City of Chicago’s required affordability component for large residential projects within a portion of Pilsen and Little Village.
“Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods are the backbone of our great city, representing the uniqueness of our residents, local restaurants and cultural institutions,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This new strategy will help preserve these important elements of Pilsen and Little Village by keeping it affordable for residents while promoting economic opportunities for future growth.”
The ARO pilot approved today will increase the City of Chicago’s required affordability component for large residential projects within a 7.2-square mile area in Pilsen and Little Village. The affordability requirement will increase from 10 to 20 percent of total units, with new provisions to increase the number of family-sized units in each project. Developer in-lieu fees will increase by $50,000 per unit, to approximately $180,000 in Pilsen and $102,000 in Little Village. At least half of the required affordable units, or 10 percent of the total unit count, will have to be built on site.
The pilot area in Pilsen is generally bounded by 16th Street, Peoria Street, the Sanitary and Ship Canal and Western Avenue. The pilot area in Little Village is generally be bounded by the Metra (BNSF) tracks, Western Avenue, the Stevenson Expressway and the Chicago city limits. The effective date will be Jan. 1, 2019, and the pilot would last for five years.
"These strategies directly address the concerns of residents and businesses that want to preserve two of the most unique and culturally significant neighborhoods in Chicago,” Alderman Danny Solis said.
Pilsen and Little Village evolved as the center for Mexican life in the Chicago area over the last 50 years, following previous waves of immigrants that included Czechs and Bohemians beginning in the late 19th century. More than 80 percent of their 115,000 residents identify as Latino, compared to 29 percent citywide, according to the American Community Survey.
“I am pleased with the plan the City of Chicago has put forward to protect the character of our neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are what they are today because of the hard work and dedication of its residents and we must work to keep these communities affordable for its families," said Alderman Ricardo Muñoz.
More recently, Pilsen, and to a lesser degree Little Village, have been subject to gentrification pressures from upwardly mobile, non-Latino residents attracted to the area’s culture and urban authenticity, as well as from business investors catering to visitors and tourists. "While the City needs new development to fuel its economic future, that growth needs to be balanced and work for local residents," said Alderman George Cardenas. "This pilot strikes that balance and I believe it will become a model for other neighborhoods and cities across the country."
A separate ordinance approved today will enable the city to acquire four miles of an underutilized BNSF railroad corridor for the planned route of the Paseo promenade through portions of Pilsen and Little Village. Encompassing more than two dozen parcels of railroad-owned properties, the planned route stretches from approximately 16th Street in Pilsen to 31st Street in Little Village. The Paseo is moving forward through a community-based planning process to connect new and existing parks with community-based designs that embrace local culture through art and recreational programming.
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