Q&A: South Chicago RFP

The following is a select list of questions asked by the public during the May 6, 2021, presentation of two developer proposals for the 8800 block of South Commercial Avenue in South Chicago.

Some of the questions were combined or edited for the sake of brevity or clarity. Answers were provided by DPD staff and the two developers that participated in the meeting. Additional questions can be directed to DPD staff at dpd@cityofchicago.org.

General Questions

The questions in this section were reviewed and answered by DPD staff.

What criteria are involved in the evaluation, and who is involved?

The criteria for evaluation are in the RFP document issued by the City of Chicago, which include community wealth building, professional and technical competence, and economic feasibility. The evaluation will be performed by City employees using those criteria as well as input from community scorecards.

What happens if the community determines these developments are not what they need?

DPD is seeking feedback on the appropriateness of both proposals from stakeholders and residents. Community input will be vital to the selection process and the formal review and approval process that follows.

How many submissions were there total?

DPD received a total of three submissions. However, only two proposals are being presented and considered because the third team withdrew its submission, which was unfeasible in its current form.

How much will these developments raise the nearby property values, property taxes, and rents?

While a reduction in vacancies may increase the value of properties immediately adjacent to these proposals, a single project is unlikely to increase taxes, rental rates, or other costs throughout the South Chicago neighborhood.

Do we need more housing, given the project on 92nd?

Any community’s need for housing is based on multiple factors, including market forces. Given the loss of approximately half of South Chicago’s total population in the last century, the construction of additional housing units and added density is generally considered a positive improvement with multiple public benefits. The Claretian Associates project underway on 92nd Street is on a different timeline than the INVEST South/West proposals.

How does rental housing create intergenerational wealth?

Affordable rental housing helps working families to avoid being overburdened by housing costs, which can help facilitate effective budgeting and saving for current and future needs.

How will developers use these profits to reinvest in the community?

New development projects that move forward through City of Chicago RFPs are monitored for compliance with formal redevelopment agreements that are approved by City Council. Project-related investments are formalized within each agreement.

Why is this a transit-oriented development site?

The RFP site qualifies for transit-oriented design due to its proximity to the CTA’s #26 South Shore Express bus route. The site is also a 10-minute walk to the 87th Street Metra Electric station.

Is there a plan to try to recruit a major grocer for the area?

A grocer could potentially be a tenant within a project’s commercial space.

How is the lead water crisis being considered as a part of these proposals?

The City’s municipal code prevents the use of lead pipes in new construction projects. The City launched a lead pipe replacement program last fall to address issues within existing buildings.

Why does DPD disable the chat function during virtual community RFP meetings?

Virtual meeting participants are asked to use the Q&A box in Zoom to ask questions and receive responses, which is more effective than the chat function.

Galleria 89 Questions

The questions in this section were reviewed and answered by members of the Galleria 89 team, also known as the 548 team, which is proposing a $23.7 million, mixed-use project for the site. The team’s pitch video is available for review.

Who will manage the fund generated by sales from the proposed tenant, Dollop cafe?

That will be a part of the community outreach process. 548 has started conversations with Sky Art. If selected, 548 will start a community process as to where the money will be directed.

Will 548 be able to see this project through given that they are interested in other INVEST South/West sites?

548 met with the alderwoman to see how their vision aligned with that of the community. 548 has partnered with those who have expertise. 548 is an emerging development. 548 chose to respond because they were interested in the historic rehabilitation opportunity at 8840 S. Commercial Ave.

Where is Cambio labs based? We have many organizations that teach organizing and leadership already. Was SYA or ASE consulted or given an opportunity?

Cambio Labs is a program that can be virtual or on the ground. They would be a program, not a tenant. There is not a shortage of ways that kids can be helped after-school.

Given that many South Chicago residents have only a GED education, what jobs here will be available to them other than construction?

Jobs available to those with a high school level education would include the retail portion of the site. 548 also does a training program in renewable energy that would be available to those with a high school level education.

Dollop coffee is very expensive, were local businesses given opportunity or asked to be involved?

The coffee shop that is in South Chicago is not near this location and was quite small. We were hoping to create a larger one with the financing to create well-paid jobs and a bigger space for the community artists as well as the ability to give back to the community.

How did you come to the conclusion that there is a need for electric vehicle charging?

548 Development came to this conclusion due to request for Equitable Transit Oriented Development (ETOD) per the ask of the community. Electric bikes and electric vehicles are part of this ETOD plan for the city.

What are plans for the homeless and loiterers that hang out on the corner area?

The team will be working with the Pilsen Wellness center, a community partner, to address addiction, mental health and homelessness.

Does Rivetna have experience with affordable housing design?

Rivetna is the architect for small developers who do six or 12 flat units and has experience working in Auburn Gresham and South Shore.

Steel City Apartments Questions

The questions in this section were reviewed and answered by members of the Steel City Apartments team, which is proposing a $29.3 million, mixed-use project for the site. The team’s pitch video is available for review.

What LOIs/ tenants have you secured?

Claretian/POAH has secured letters of support and interest from both 93 Studios and the Spanish Coalition for Housing.

Is there a plan to work with the SSA and the police department to help with the crime that is heavy on that corner?
Angela Hurlock, the head of Claretian, is also the Chair of SSA Commission. The entities plan to work together closely as they have past and present.

What incentives exist to help keep financing local, in turn keeping money in the community?

There are a number of community banks that provide gap financing or do projects, particularly capital improvements, and Claretian has received monies from local banks in the past.

What examples from previous projects can you give of benefits you provided to Black or Brown communities?

The development team is happy to give tours of POAH’s 10 years of work in Woodlawn.

Will you guarantee that whatever tenants you select will not be in competition with the current businesses on Commercial Avenue?


Are the developers aware of the flooding problems when going beneath street level?

At one point, this area was part of Lake Michigan. The developer is aware of the low water table and is experienced with storm water management. The developer does not want to exacerbate the area’s flooding challenges. And DPD would note that the City has a stormwater ordinance that projects are required to meet.

Who exactly is handling the construction?

Blackwood Group and Berglund Construction will form a joint venture to run construction.

Are there any other of these transit-oriented buildings on the south east side of Chicago, including Hyde Park?

Yes. As an example, POAH has one at 63rd and Cottage Grove in Woodlawn, called Woodlawn Station. Affordable housing, 15,000 square feet of commercial spaces with local businesses, bike rooms, and train tracker videos in the lobby.

Will there be a space for installations and a place for local visual artists to be spotlighted?

Yes. 93 Studios is interested in an art gallery in the building. The proposal also would include outdoor installations to showcase talent from the community.

What percentage of local hires will you do?

The team’s partners have committed to hiring as close to 100 percent local as the applicant pool allows.

Will the same companies that works on larger projects be the same company working on the housing aspect?

We have our own property management company, so our people will be on the ground long term.

How many ADA accessible units will be available?

The team will exceed the minimum requirement but haven't calculated exactly what that is yet. The architect has said that all units will be visitable as a baseline.

How will you prevent this project from gentrifying the neighborhood?

Apartments will be offered at a mix of income levels. On the business side, the team is very committed to bringing in local businesses. The two mixed-use buildings owned by the team in Woodlawn have only local business owners, sometimes to the detriment of economics, since the team has offered lower rents and occasionally money to help with buildout costs.

Will the same companies that works on larger projects be the same company working on the housing aspect?

The team has its own property management company, which will remain on the ground long term.

How many low-income units will be included?

The exact mix isn’t fixed, but likely half of the units will be low income (30 to 50 percent AMI) and the other half moderate income (80 percent).

Does rehabbing the existing building add to or cut down on the overall budget?

It's not cheaper to rehab at the level needed in this building. It probably would be cheaper to demolish and build new by a little bit, but it's a beautiful exterior.