Uptown luxury development faces challenges

Montrose-Clarendon demolition
Photo at top: Demolition at the Montrose-Clarendon development in Uptown (Holly Kane/MEDILL)

By Holly Kane

A $15.8 million TIF to fund a luxury housing development in Uptown will provide $5.7 million for low-income housing, but it is unclear where that housing will be.

The 26-story Clarendon-Montrose development will feature 381 rental units and a 30,000-square-foot Treasure Island Foods grocery store with 5 percent affordable units. Construction is set to start early February, with full occupancy reached by December 2018.

Ald. James Cappleman, the 46th Ward, said he thinks the affordable housing will come to his ward because of its high population of homeless people compared with surrounding North Side neighborhoods. The homeless population of Uptown makes up 9 percent of all of Chicago’s homeless, according to a 2016 report by the city, compared with neighboring Edgewater, which has less than 1 percent.

“How much low-income housing do you have?” Cappleman said. “Because the 46th Ward has a healthy amount.”

Developer Harlem Irving Companies opted to contribute $5.7 million to the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund instead of including the required 10 percent affordable units. The city’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance requires new residential developments to include at least 20 percent affordable units or pay a $100,000-per unit fee-in-lieu to the trust.

Market-rate unit rents will range from $1,688 per month for studios to $2,637 per month for two-bedroom units, according to development plans filed with the city. Low-income unit rents will range from $636 per month for a studio to $980 per month for a two-bedroom unit. There are seven studios at low-income rates and 123 at market rates.

A number of community organizations oppose the development, including the Preston Bradley Center, which houses a 72-bed homeless shelter Ald. Cappleman claimed to have saved from closing in December. Executive director Jean Darling does not remember it that way.

“It wasn’t his doing at all,” Darling said. “It was pressure from the community.”

Darling worries the development will displace the residents her organization tries to help.

“There’s a real tension around this stuff,” Darling said. “We’ve lost a number of parishioners who couldn’t find a place to live. It just goes against the ethos of the neighborhood.”

About 40 residents attended a construction meeting Thursday at the Clarendon Park Community Center where Jim Snyder, president of construction for Harlem Irving, answered questions about noise levels and sidewalk closings.

Ryne Poelker, 26, an activist with Northside Action for Justice and Uptown Tent City, noticed no questions were raised about the potential displacement of the neighborhood’s homeless and low-income residents.

“This meeting went pretty typically,” Poelker said, adding attendees were “Ninety percent white.”

“It’s not very representative of our neighborhood,” he said.

When questioned after the meeting, Cappleman said residents will not be displaced because, even though the housing fund is not designated for a specific part of the city, Uptown will receive housing because it has the most homeless people.

Surrounding wards – like that of Ald. Ameya Pawar, the 47th Ward,  who voted against the TIF on the grounds of the lack of affordable housing in the development – do not contribute to the homelessness crisis, he said.

Cappleman said: “When you’re talking about homelessness, all wards need to help out. And they’re not.”

Photo at top: The  Montrose-Clarendon development undergoes demolition in Uptown. (Holly Kane/MEDILL)