‘This Is Nothing Less Than A Day Of Resurrection’

LOGAN SQUARE — After eight years of planning, neighborhood debate and a legal battle, a seven-story, all-affordable apartment complex has officially opened in Logan Square.

Long known as the Emmett Street Apartments, the development includes 100 affordable units ranging from one to three bedrooms, located just north of the Logan Square Blue Line station. And now, the building has a new name: Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments, after the Chicago labor organizer and activist.

The development was spearheaded by Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, a local nonprofit developer which manages more than 1,000 units of affordable housing on Chicago’s Northwest Side.

Bickerdike will manage all of the building’s apartments. Fifty units are available to people making under 60 percent of the 2022 median area income. The cap is $43,800 per year for an individual and $62,520 per year for a family of four, according to the city’s Department of Housing. The other 50 units are reserved for CHA voucher holders.

A transit-oriented development, the site at 2614 N. Emmett St. was formerly a city-owned parking lot.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara join other leaders to officially open the Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments in Logan Square

Speaking at Friday’s ribbon cutting, neighborhood and city leaders portrayed the development as a safeguard against displacement in Logan Square, which has rapidly gentrified and gotten more expensive in recent years.

“This represents part of the solution to address segregation and displacement in neighborhoods like Logan Square. This was the city’s first equitable transit oriented development, but it is not its last,” said Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), who’s been a vocal supporter of the building for years.

Representatives from local churches and neighborhood associations echoed that sentiment, praising the project as integral to retaining economic and racial diversity in Logan Square.

“What was dead is now full of life. This is nothing less than a day of resurrection,” said Pastor Bruce Ray from the Kimball Avenue UCC. “These 100 units are the promise that one day, no one will be displaced, no one will be unhoused and no one will be afraid any longer.”

The development’s opening marks the culmination of almost a decade of planning, which was not without hiccups.

In March 2020, a group of Logan Square property owners, including landlord Mark Fishman, filed a lawsuit against the developer and the city, arguing that replacing a parking lot with 100 subsidized apartments would cause them “irreparable injury.” The lawsuit was dismissed that June after a Cook County Circuit judge said it lacked standing.

Construction on the project began in September 2020. Last summer, Bickerdike received almost 700 applicants for just 50 apartments in the building, which the developer said showed the “dire need” for affordable housing in Logan Square.

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood

So far, nine tenants have moved into the apartment complex, a Bickerdike representative said. One of them is David Rivera, who became the first person to move in last month.

Rivera said he’s struggled to stay in the neighborhood in recent years amidst rising housing costs. Now, he’ll be able continue living just blocks from his mother and grandmother in the community he grew up in.

“To the be the first one in the building was a little weird,” Rivera said, laughing. “But it was something new, and it was really kind of a new start for me, and for a lot of other people who are coming into the building.”

“I think everyone deserves the opportunity to live comfortably in their communities.”

The $41 million development is funded by a mix of TIF dollars, tax-exempt bonds and Chicago Housing Authority funding. The building will also include around 4,300 square feet of retail space along Kedzie Avenue, which is not yet occupied.

Department of Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara has been working on the development since 2014, when she worked for the Metropolitan Planning Council.

Novara praised the community input process and back-and-forth that took place over the past several years. She said she sees the project as a model for transit-oriented development across Chicago.

“This community did the hard work of figuring out the best use of this space. And the result was that this community said, unequivocally, we should not be housing only cars here when we could be housing people. People who want to stay in this community that they’ve called home as it becomes less and less affordable,” she said.

Officials also drew parallels between the building’s namesake Lucy Gonzalez Parsons, an Avondale resident, and the fight to build the development over the past eight years.

“She was a woman of color. She was one of the first Black Americans to play a leading role in the American labor movement. And she faced a lot of adversity, but she woke up every day and continued to fight and I think that that is really the story of our community as it relates to this development,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

“We faced a lot of opposition, but we wouldn’t back down.”

Credit: Quinn Myers/Block Club Chicago
The Emmett Street Apartments affordable development has been renamed after Chicago labor activist Lucy Gonzalez Parsons

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