Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle swore in the 2015 LSNA board over the weekend. Photo by Alex V. Hernandez.
Logan Square residents gathered over the weekend for the 53rd annual Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) Congress at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave.
“For 10 years we’ve been talking about having this space for our children and families to enjoy, and on June 6, it’s finally coming,” said Delia Ramirez, director of the Latin United Community Housing Association. She was referring to The 606 park and trail system set to open next month.
Stretching between Ashland Avenue and Ridgeway at Bloomingdale Avenue, the park and trail system will include six ground-level parks, a wheel-friendly event plaza, an observatory, art installations, educational programming, and other amenities that connects the Bucktown, Wicker Park, Logan Square, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods.
“Now, all we want is to be able to stay and enjoy it. We don’t want to see people start to be forced out of the community we love,” said Ramirez. She described a recent morning where she woke up to the sight of seven for-sale signs, all on the same block down the street from her home in the area.
“I sat looking out my window, and I thought, ‘Six months from now, will I even recognize the community I live in?,'” she said.
Indeed, properties around the trail have skyrocketed in value disproportionate to other homes and apartments in the area. For example, a row of six new townhomes built near The 606 over the winter at 3565-3575 W. Wabansia being sold by Dumas & Associates Reality, Inc. start at $389,000.
The square footage for one of these townhomes is 2,100 and each unit has three bedrooms, a garage and private deck. In contrast, the total assessed value of a 62 year old, two-story apartment building that has 1,992 square feet at 3568 W. Wabansia Ave. is $21,763, according to Cook County property records.
Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., State Senator Iris Martinez, Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and other elected officials were invited by LSNA organizers to speak about these issues on Saturday where over 500 residents and community leaders were in attendance.
The LSNA’s goal is to ensure that the voices of all Logan Square residents are heard. To this end the LSNA announced a new awareness campaign that features banners with photos and stories of people impacted by rising rents and property taxes in Logan Square.
The LSNA announced a new awareness campaign that features banners with photos and stories of people impacted by rising rents and property taxes in Logan Square.
Alex V. Hernandez
“I live eight houses away from the elevated train track where the 606 will be, and I’m already starting to see some changes. It’s going to attract a lot of people, so how can I be a part of it?,” read one banner with a family picture of Jennifer Velazquez, 20, who is an organizer for LSNA.
At the event Commissioner Arroyo, elected this year to represent Logan Square, was asked if he would support a property tax abatement program for the area around the 606. Arroyo didn’t say yes but did respond that he is “committed to working with the LSNA to make sure everyone hears your voice.”
Meanwhile Berrios asked residents to contact his office to help curb the inflating property values the Logan Square and Humboldt Park areas.
“We’re using computers to reevaluate properties in every neighborhood in the system, because we don’t have the staff to go into each house individually,” Berrios said. “If you think our appraisal is wrong for your property, it’s up to you to appeal it, and we’ll be waiting to work with you.”
To this end Berrios said residents should go cookcountyassessor.com or call 312-443-7550 to learn more about the appeal process and any property tax exemptions homeowners may qualify for.
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CHICAGO — Vecinos del barrio de Logan Square hicieron escuchar sus preocupaciones por los recortes a programas de servicios sociales y al posible aumento a los impuestos a la propiedad ante legisladores estatales, municipales y del condado.
Los residentes fueron congregados por la Asociación de Vecindarios de Logan Square (LSNA), organización que celebró su quincuagésimo tercer congreso anual el sábado, en la Iglesia Armitage Baptist, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave., al que acudieron unas 500 personas.
Ante la proximidad de que la Asamblea General de Illinois vote por la propuesta de presupuesto del gobernador, Bruce Rauner, para el año fiscal 2016 —deberán hacerlo antes del 31 de mayo—, los residentes pidieron a los funcionarios electos que asistieron, que no permitan dichos recortes que les afectarían de diversas maneras.
La propuesta del gobernador recortaría $6.67 millones del Fondo de Servicios para Inmigrantes (ISLI), equivalente al .01% del presupuesto del estado, que financia los programas Recursos para Familias Inmigrantes (IFRP) y la Iniciativa Nuevos Americanos (NAI).
Los recortes también obligarían a organizaciones como LSNA a cerrar programas como el que asiste a inmigrantes a obtener la ciudadanía estadounidense y desaparecerían otros como el de Padres Mentores que funciona en 70 escuelas, en el que participan unos 600 padres quienes ayudan en el salón de clase y benefician a unos 15,000 estudiantes, el cual opera con $1.5 millones.
Rauner también propuso un recorte de $1.5 mil millones al programa de Medicaid.
Entre los presentes se encontraba María González, quien se quejó que a la clínica comunitaria a la que asiste no hay doctores, otros residentes dijeron que las rentas han subido tanto que las familias tienen que dejar el vecindario.
Cristina Pacione-Zayas y Christian Díaz, miembros de la mesa directiva de LSNA, explicaron que el evento fue una buena oportunidad para abogar por esos asuntos y también para recordarle al gobierno del condado que la comunidad no está dispuesta a permitir que se le incrementen los impuestos a la propiedad.
Illinois encara un déficit de $6 mil millones “tras años de negligencia fiscal”, afirma la oficina de Rauner y añade que su propuesta fiscal, “mantiene los programas básicos que sirven a los más vulnerables como los hijos de los inmigrantes”.
Esas fueron algunas de la preocupaciones que expusieron ante la presidenta de la Junta de Comisionados del Condado de Cook, Toni Preckwinkle; el tasador del Condado de Cook, Joseph “Joe” Berríos; el comisionado del Condado de Cook, Luis Arroyo, Jr. (D-8); la senadora estatal, Iris Martínez (D-20); el representante estatal, Jaime Andrade (D-40); y el concejal electo, Carlos Ramírez-Rosa (D-35).
Berrios comentó que por el momento lo único que pueden hacer los residentes es apelar sus impuestos a la propiedad cuando llegue la evaluación y mencionó que para esa área del condado, correspondiente a Jefferson Park, los propietarios deberán hacerlo entre agosto y septiembre.
Berrios recomendó a los residentes “trabajar con los comisionados del Condado de Cook para que ellos se aseguren de trabajar con las agencias correspondientes para que no incrementen los impuestos a la propiedad”.
Preckwinkle dijo al diario Hoy que “tomaremos pasos muy difíciles para cumplir con la obligación de un presupuesto para el 2016, pero no consideramos un incremento a los impuestos a la propiedad”.
Por su parte, el comisionado Arroyo se comprometió a buscar otras maneras de obtener recursos sin incrementar los impuestos a la propiedad.
El representante Andrade, por su parte, mencionó que apoya una propuesta que incrementaría los impuestos a los millonarios, “no podemos depender de los impuestos a la propiedad”, y agregó que también se le debe recortar los subsidios a las grandes corporaciones y dirigir ese dinero a programas de asistencia a los más necesitados.
Tanto Andrade como la senadora Martínez coincidieron en señalar que Rauner no entiende que los servicios que está recortando son esenciales para la comunidad.
“Él piensa (que lo que recortó) son servicios extras para afroamericanos, latinos, para la gente común, no se da cuenta que son servicios básicos”, agregó Andrade.
La senadora Martínez dijo sentirse frustrada por la falta de conocimiento de Rauner y de su equipo de asesores en relación a la comunidad de bajos y medianos ingresos.
“Ellos tendrían que venir aquí al barrio y conocer a los residentes y escucharlos, conocer lo importante que son para ellos todos los servicios que les están quitando”, comentó Martínez, quien aseguró que peleará para que ese presupuesto no sea aprobado.
Spike Lee, when you get here be sure to check out our Whole Foods.
Yes there was a hint of defiance, not to mention a whole lot of pride, on display April 30 when close to 300 residents and stakeholders of the Greater Englewood neighborhood gathered to celebrate 10 years of achievements that have flowed from their 2005 Quality-of-Life plan.
Teamwork Englewood Executive Director Perry Gunn with Leon Walker, whose DL3 Realty is developing the 13-acre shopping center now rising at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets … a center anchored by an upscale, $3.5 million Whole Foods supermarket.
“Spike might as well go someplace else,” quipped Deborah Crable, the media executive who emceed the event. Her reference was, of course, to the well-publicized rumors that the famous film director is coming to Englewood to shoot a movie about urban street violence – a movie tentatively titled “Chiraq.”
Englewood still has challenges, to be sure. But organizers of the “Making a Difference Awards Ceremony” made sure the evening’s first plaque was presented to Leon Walker. His DL3 Realty is developing the 13-acre shopping center now rising at the northwest corner of 63rd and Halsted streets … a center anchored by an upscale, $3.5 million Whole Foods supermarket.
Walker said the project has big potential to turn around Englewood’s faded shopping district. Once that intersection was second only to the Loop’s State Street in gross sales, and has the potential, he said, to become once more “the South Side’s downtown.”
Following a moving tribute to the late Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), mistress of ceremonies Crable recounted the history of the host organization – Teamwork Englewood: how it was created in 2003 as a charter member of LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program; how it pulled together the positive efforts of longtime neighborhood actors such as St. Bernard Hospital, a dozen strong churches and Pullman (now U.S.) Bank; how in 2004-05 more than 600 residents participated in workshops and public meetings to create “Making a Difference,” the 52-page Quality-of-Life plan.
The event celebrating Englewood's Quality-of-Life plan was held on the campus of Kennedy-King College, an institution which is helping transform the area around Halsted and 63rd streets.
Eric Young Smith
It was that Q-of-L plan’s 10 basic strategies that inspired and helped bring to reality numerous neighborhood improvements, ranging from Growing Home’s Wood Street Urban Farm to the ongoing “Large Lots” transfer of dozens of city-owned vacant lots to homeowners organized by R.A.G.E., as in Residents Association of Greater Englewood.
“Tonight we want the rest of the world to know what’s going on in Englewood,” declared Perry Gunn, Teamwork Englewood’s executive director. “We want everyone to know what you have accomplished to build what we’re calling New Englewood.”
Those same accomplishments also were featured in a short documentary film produced and directed by Englewood’s own Rashanah Baldwin, who also does a weekly show on WKKC radio called “What’s Good in Englewood.”
Halsted and 63rd streets back in the day when the area was a booming retail corridor.
The documentary showed, for instance, how St. Bernard’s mobile pediatric unit has helped raise childhood immunization rates from among the lowest in the nation to a very respectable 90 percent; how organizations such as the Greater Englewood Community Development Corp. and Neighborhood Housing Services have battled the nationwide foreclosure epidemic; and importantly, how programs creating jobs for ex-offenders and improved community policing are having a ripple effect on the sense of safety, making possible developments like Whole Foods.
In the words of Elder Willard Payton, Teamwork Englewood’s board chair, this spreading sense of safety “has allowed us to accomplish a great deal.”
The highlight of the ceremony, held in the main hall of the Kennedy-King campus of the City Colleges of Chicago, was the awarding of plaques-of-recognition. They went to scores of residents who’ve worked tirelessly, both on the programs cited above and others, including those who’ve steadfastly operated local businesses – from a hardware store to a funeral home – through some very lean times.
A later scene at Halsted and 63rd streets after construction of Kennedy-King College.
Eric Young Smith
From the beginning it’s been an all-inclusive process. Ten years ago the names of 667 Englewood residents were listed as authors of the New Communities Q-of-L Plan … and almost half that many strode proudly to the rostrum that Thursday evening to be acknowledged by all for their contributions.
So what’s next for Teamwork Englewood and its many, many partners?
“It might be time for a new plan!” suggested Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director, at the end of her welcoming remarks. LISC sponsored the evening’s celebration, along with The Monroe Foundation, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), Uber and actor Harry Lennix – a South Sider who, like Englewood, has gone on to achieve great things.
Perry Gunn, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dionne Baux, email@example.com
LSNA organizer Jennifer Velazquez (right) pressed newly-elected Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr. (left) about controlling property taxes along the projected route of the 606.
LOGAN SQUARE — There was dancing and cheering at the Logan Square Neighborhood Association's 53rd Annual Congress — but it didn't distract from serious concerns about state budget cuts and gentrification that residents aired with local representatives Saturday.
With mere weeks before the ribbon-cutting of The 606, an elevated park trail planned in the style of New York's High Line, residents of the Northwest Side neighborhood said they are wary of being forced out by skyrocketing property values.
Many residents had been clamoring for years for the city to reclaim the 2.7-mile long stretch of abandoned track, and most expressed excitement for its opening. Still, speakers at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave. Saturay took turns calling on policymakers to keep working-class homeowners in mind.
"For 10 years we've been talking about having this space for our children and families to enjoy, and on June 6, it's finally coming," said Delia Ramirez, one of the event's organizers, to a roar of applause. "Now, all we want is to be able to stay and enjoy it. We don't want to see people start to be forced out of the community we love."
Just the announcement of the 606, Ramirez said, was enough to spike property values all along the trail.
"Housing choice is directly linked to employment, education, transportation and food," said Cook County Board Commissioner Toni Preckwinkle in her keynote address. "And the fact remains that the demand for affordable housing far outweighs the supply."
DNAInfo Alex Nitkin
"Yesterday I woke up to the sight of seven for-sale signs, all on the same block down the street from me," she said. "I sat looking out my window, and I thought, 'Six months from now, will I even recognize the community I live in?'"
The LSNA used the Congress to unveil a new campaign aimed at voters and newcomers to the area, featuring banners with photos and stories of people affected by rising rents and property taxes. One banner, bearing a picture of a teenaged Jennifer Velazquez with her family, reads: "I live eight houses away from the elevated train track where the 606 will be, and I'm already starting to see some changes. It's going to attract a lot of people, so how can I be a part of it?
Velazquez, now a 20-year-old organizer for LSNA, said city and county officials should consider tax controls to soften the blow of rising prices.
"Taxes are going to go up regardless, we know that," she said. "But if we are able to control them for a while, people will be able to start working with them until they’re making enough money to be able to pay them."
During the Congress, Velazquez publicly interviewed Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo Jr., elected this year to represent Logan Square. When she asked him if he'd support a property tax abatement program for the area around the 606, he deflected the question but said he was "committed to working with the LSNA to make sure everyone hears your voice."
Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios also made an appearance to remind residents of their own power to temper the inflating values of their property.
"We're using computers to reevaluate properties in every neighborhood in the system, because we don't have the staff to go into each house individually," Berrios said. "If you think our appraisal is wrong for your property, it's up to you to appeal it, and we'll be waiting to work with you."
Residents hold up anti-gentrification flyers at the 53rd Annual Congress of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
DNAInfo Alex Nitkin
In a brief keynote address at the end of the event, County Board President Toni Preckwinkle didn't reference any specific policy action but echoed the importance of affordable housing, of which "demand far outweighs its supply."
The Congress also set aside a portion of the morning to discuss Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposed budget cuts to community programs like LSNA's popular Parent Mentor Program. Students, volunteers and legislators took turns extolling the benefits of the program while calling on the state House to preserve it.
"We've tried to work with [Rauner], but he's shown us from his swearing in that he doesn't care about working families, he doesn't care about our communities," said State Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Logan Square). "We need to send him the message that government isn't a corporation. ... He should be closing corporate loopholes, not balancing the budget on the backs of the working class."
Read more Logan Square/Humboldt Park DNAChicago articles here.
LOGAN SQUARE — Logan Square’s 53rd “Community Congress” will convene Saturday, encouraging residents to represent their block, corner and home alongside influential local politicians.
The annual event hosted by the Logan Square Neighborhood Association is aimed at discussing issues affecting the neighborhood at large, this year with a particular focus on the impact of The 606 parks and trail project on nearby housing and the effects state-wide budget cuts are having on the Logan Square community.
Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios and recently elected Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo, Jr. will be on hand to lead a discussion on how to stabilize the neighborhood around the Bloomingdale Trail as the 2.7 mile high-rise park moves closer to opening day.
Last year, the Congress tackled ways to preserve Ames Middle School and Kelvyn Park High School in the midst of upheaval at both locations.
In accordance with its community mission, the group will attempt to “confront major upheavals affecting the neighborhood, including rapid gentrification and a crisis in state funding for neighborhood needs” during Saturday’s Community Congress session.
“On the Congress agenda is a discussion of state funding for education, social services and immigrant services, all of which are at risk,” the announcement for the weekend gathering reads.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will deliver the event’s keynote speech and swear in the association’s new board. State legislators who represent Logan Square have also been invited.
The 53rd Congress will take place at 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, May 16 at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave.
For more neighborhood news check out DNAinfo Chicago.
Weekly chess lessons return Thursday at the West Town Branch Library, 1625 W. Chicago Ave. Classes from 6 to 7pm through June 11 are supported by East Village Association fund-raising.
Segun Kamara, instructor from Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation, heads the drop-in program through March 3. Segun Kamara led a loyal following of 40 kids in 6 weekly lessons last fall.
Sessions are recommended for children 7 and up, or children ages 5 and 6 accompanied by a parent or guardian.
LOGAN SQUARE — The first public meeting on Logan Square’s Logan’s Crossing development attracted a full house May 7 at the Mega Mall, a long-running indoor flea market currently slated for demolition.
The demolition of the decaying structure will make way for 267 residential units, around 350 parking spots, public green space (possibly the fabled Logan Square orchard) and new retail outlets — if developers at Terraco Inc. are approved for a zoning change and eventual construction at the site, located at 2500 N. Milwaukee Ave.
In addition to a new focus on residential units paired with 1:1 bike parking, a bike tech room and a rooftop herb garden, the proposal could come with the installation of a new traffic light and a 40,000 to 45,000-square-foot grocery store at the site, Gendell told a group of around 250 people in attendance at the community meeting Thursday night.
A packed community meeting Thursday night, the project's first public forum. [DNAinfo/Darryl Holiday]
The meeting was led by Ald. Scott Waguespack, developer Scott Gendell, architect Joe Antunovich and other members of the Terraco team, who took turns describing amenities at the Logan’s Crossing proposal paired with renderings of the 2.7 acre lot, located within walking distance of the Illinois Centennial Monument and Logan Square’s central district.
The Grocery Store
Gendell and co. have insisted that no grocer has been selected for the Logan’s Crossing development, but that hasn’t stopped rumors in the run-up to the meeting, and it didn’t stop a series of questions Thursday night.
While many have insisted that the Mega Mall lot isn’t a good fit for a full-service grocer — and some have suggested that an express-style store a la Target Express is in the works — Gendell hedged Thursday, only noting that Mariano’s has already declined the location (though not outright denying an express outlet).
Jewel and Whole Foods were also noted by Gendell as grocery stores with outlets in the size range sought for Logan’s Crossing. Trader Joe’s, however, is likely out of the question.
Little is certain about the Logan Square orchard — aside from it potentially being located on a lot adjacent to Terraco’s Mega Mall parcels on the northern end (though that land is not owned by the developing company.)
Gendell has expressed interest in the orchard since the early inception of Logan’s Crossing, but progress has moved at the slowest possible speed. If eventually constructed, the orchard could end up being moved to an adjacent Chicago Transit Authority-owned parcel that has been ostensibly greenlit for green space and/or public space.
The orchard concept is also backed by Waguespack.
Affordable Housing and Local Business at Logan’s Crossing
Comments from Logan Square Neighborhood Association Housing and Land Use co-chair Daniel LaSpata received some of the most raucous cheers of the night as the affordable housing advocate argued for the inclusion of low-cost units above and beyond the Affordable Requirements Ordinance at Logan’s Crossing.
“We would encourage the alderman and the developers to envision that 10 percent [affordable housing requirement] as a floor rather than a ceiling, which would go a long way to keeping families in this city and keeping our neighborhood diverse” LaSpata said.
While stopping short of panning the project, LaSpata pushed for large, 2-3 bedroom units be set aside for affordable housing; that requirements be set between 30-50 percent of Average Median Income; and that Terraco set aside a percentage of retail space for low-income and first-time business owners to “continue the tradition of what [the Mega Mall] was and what it’s becoming.”
“The Mega Mall has always been a place where you could take a little space and make it your first business,” he said, arguing that a similar incubator-style space should be set aside among new retail planned for Logan’s Crossing.
Affordable housing was also on the agenda for a small but vocal group of attendees from We Are/Somos Logan Square, who cautioned against displacement of long-term residents and encouraged continued interaction with community residents for input throughout the development process.
Though short on exact specifications at this early stage, Gendell maintained his support for affordable housing and the inclusion of an incubator-style program, including the return of at least one soon-to-be former Mega Mall shop owner — one of three remaining Mega Mall tenants — who operated her jewelry outlet throughout the meeting.
“We want those companies to not just be something you could get anywhere — we want it to be something unique to Logan Square,” Gendell said, noting that art from Logan Square’s Penny Pinch is featured on a wall in his Lakeview home.
There are currently no plans to remove or alter the art-covered “Mega Wall,” a Galerie F art project located between the Mega Mall parking lot and the Blue Line tracks, Gendell said.
The Neighborhood Character
Perhaps the strongest criticism of the Logan’s Crossing proposal came from residents who questioned the scale, size and look of the staggered-height buildings, which range from 4-7 stories across its length.
“We have several concerns about the development as it is currently proposed and hope Terraco will consider making revisions that will make these buildings integrate more effectively with the surrounding community,” Logan Square Preservation president Andrew Schneider said.
Schneider noted the group’s general preferences: decreases in height and density, some tweaks to the tenant profile with the addition of a local business incubator, the elimination of a curb cut on the lot's northern end and a significant change in plans for the building’s northern façade to facilitate a “landmark caliber building” more in tune with Logan Square’s historic streets.
The need to stay connected to Logan Square’s unique character was made several times throughout the night. One resident called the proposal “cookie cutter … with some thoughtful amenities.”
“That could be a creative solution to add to your personal success and bring in shoppers,” said Jami Primmer. “I’m just not seeing that here.”
“Match the scale and show a little more respect to the character of the neighborhood,” one neighbor said, while another looked to the future of Logan Square as new developments like the Twin Towers project, the nearby "L" building and the California Studios development are poised bring more than 380 units to the neighborhood — not including the 267 proposed for Logan's Crossing.
"Are we going to become a canyon of highrises or are we going to maintain the character of our neighborhood?" he asked.
A second meeting is in the works, according to Waguespack, but in the meantime the alderman said he will continue to vet community responses and work on refinements with Terraco.
Terraco will not request Tax Increment Financing money, Gendell said, while acknowledging that rejection of the public funds will put a heavier limitation on changes to the plan.
“My preference is to not use TIF dollars [because] you can’t avail yourself of that vehicle lightly,” he said.
He hinted at issues rooted at the intersection of affordable housing, scale/density and the use of public funds.
“If you sacrifice density you can’t finance the project, and if you can’t finance you don’t get the [affordable] housing,” he said. “These are the things we’re dealing with.”
Waguespack reiterated that he hasn’t agreed to a zoning change and will weigh options ahead of a final decision.
“I don’t like developers that come in and say ‘give me a zoning change,’ — then they’ll ask for 12 to 15 stories. But of course that’s never going to happen here” he said, undoubtedly alluding to one familiar new Logan Square development in particular.
“There are good developers and there are bad ones. The bad ones are the ones we have to chase down,” Waguespack said, adding that he’s worked with Logan’s Crossing architect Antunovich in the past. “They did a good job then and I would trust him to do a good job now.”
In the meantime, the Mega Mall, a 20-year old fire-damaged structure currently decaying from all sides, should be demolished as soon as humanly possible, as it is a safety hazard, according to Larry Ligas.
“It’s serious, serious, serious,” Ligas said, pointing to obvious damage to nearly every quarter of the space, including the ceiling. “This project is good for everyone … but demotion needs to be done immediately.”