Mayor Rahm Emanuel today joined Aldermen Daniel Solis, Ricardo Muñoz and George Cardenas to announce a comprehensive, community-based strategy to preserve the culture, character and affordability of the Midwest’s largest Mexican community. Planned for the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods on Chicago’s Southwest Side, the strategy includes enhanced affordability requirements for market rate housing developments; new housing resources to help existing residents avoid displacement caused by gentrification; a designated landmark district to preserve the area’s unique architecture; an industrial modernization strategy to increase sustainable, head-of-household jobs; and open space improvements that enhance neighborhood character and livability.
“Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods are the backbone of our great city, collectively highlighting our rich culture, renowned restaurants and amazing residents,” said Mayor Emanuel. “This new strategy will help preserve these important elements of Pilsen and Little Village while keeping it affordable for residents and promoting economic opportunities for future growth.”
Individual portions of the strategy will be implemented in the weeks ahead, starting with the City Council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
"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 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."
Several of the strategies are identified in the Pilsen and Little Village Action Plan, completed last year by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) through extensive community participation.
“Along with area aldermen and Mayor Emanuel, the City is committed to working with the Pilsen and Little Village communities to leverage these resources on behalf of local families, workers and business owners,” said Commissioner David Reifman, Department of Planning and Development.
The strategies include:
Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) Pilot: To be introduced to City Council Wednesday, the pilot 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. At least half of the required affordable units, or 10 percent of the total unit count, would have to be built on site. The pilot area boundaries in Pilsen would generally be bounded by Peoria Street, 16th Street, the Sanitary and Ship Canal and Western Avenue. The boundaries in Little Village would generally be bounded by Western Avenue, the Metra (BNSF) tracks, the Stevenson Expressway and the Chicago city limits.
Affordable Housing Resources on Behalf of Existing Residents: In conjunction with the ARO pilot, the City is investing resources from the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, which receives the fees paid by developers under the ARO, in Pilsen and Little Village to preserve affordable housing for existing residents. The City will make financial assistance available for developers that purchase or refinance multi-family residential buildings in the ARO pilot area in exchange for long-term affordable rental covenants. Additional resources will be made available in the ARO pilot area as forgivable loans to help income-qualified owner-occupants of one- to four-unit properties upgrade their properties and remain in their homes. The strategy will also prioritize outreach to area homeowners by the Chicago Community Land Trust, which provides reduced property taxes in exchange for long-term affordability, and to low-income tenants by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, which provides rental subsidies on their behalf.
Landmark District Designation: Will protect the historic character of portions of 18th Street, Blue Island Avenue, and other streets through a formal City of Chicago landmark district designation, which will require Landmarks Commission review of local building projects. The proposed district, which is characterized by Baroque-inspired mixed-use and residential buildings constructed between 1875 and 1910, is expected to be considered for initial landmark status by the Landmarks Commission in December.
Industrial Corridor Modernization: Will create strategies to enhance employment, transportation and other amenities within the neighborhoods’ two industrial corridors to foster job-intensive uses that support families and the regional economy. The process was initiated in the Little Village Industrial Corridor in April 2018, with a framework plan for regulatory land use improvements anticipated in early 2019. The planning process for the Pilsen Industrial Corridor is expected to start in 2019.
Open Space Enhancements: Will complete the Paseo’s planned route along an underutilized rail line from 16th Street in Pilsen to 31st Street in Little Village while connecting new and existing parks through community-based designs that embrace local culture through art and programming. An ordinance to be introduced to City Council Wednesday will authorize the City to acquire four-miles of the route from BNSF Railway.