The Chicago Community Development Commission voted unanimously on April 20 to allow the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to go out to bid for the redevelopment proposals for West Humboldt Park lots at 3601 W. Chicago Ave. and 3617-3625 W. Chicago Ave. 

As part of the Invest South/West initiative, the city has been  seeking out developers for unused, mostly city-owned lots along major corridors on the West and South sides. 

The West Humboldt Park proposal stands out because both lots are privately owned — one lot contains a vacant church building owned by the Uptown-based All Real Estate Company and the other lot includes a building that houses the offices of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago (NHS), a nonprofit that provides home ownership assistance to low-income residents. 

The Community Development Commission voted on April 21 to authorize the city to use eminent domain to buy and raze the church building. One of the conditions of the redevelopment proposal is that the new development must include office space for Neighborhood Housing Services. 

Preliminary plans call for retail uses and new NHS offices on the first floor, with residential units and a community space located on the floors above. A public plaza would be built underneath the residential section held up by support beams. 

The DPD is expected to go out for bids by the end of April and developers will have three months to submit their proposals. 

As part of the Invest/South West, DPD issued proposals for three West Side sites in the fall of 2020. They chose Heartland Alliance and the Oak Park Regional Housing Center to redevelop the former Laramie State Bank building, 5200 W. Chicago Ave. The agency is currently in the process of choosing developers for the Silver Shovel site, 4300 W. Roosevelt Rd., and vacant lots at 3400-18 W. Ogden Ave.

For West Humboldt Park, DPD considered several sites on the stretch of Chicago Avenue between Pulaski Road and Kedzie Avenue for the Invest/South West project. 

Most notably, they considered a site at the northeast corner of Pulaski Road and Chicago Avenue, within walking distance of the controversial Joint Public Safety Training Academy at 4301 W. Chicago Ave. — better known as the “Cop Academy” among activists who opposed its construction. 

The development commission’s March 9 meeting agenda originally included a vote on seeking proposals for that site, but the item was pulled from the agenda. DPD staff indicated that they decided to go with a site that was centrally located within the study corridor. 

As with other sites, the city held community meetings to get a sense of what the residents wanted to see on the site. During the April 1 community meeting, residents suggested several uses, including a small business incubator, a clothing store, a fitness center and some kind of mental health service provider. 

At least 50 of the residential units in the new development would need to be affordable. The building would be continuous and the alley that currently separates the two lots would be vacated. The preliminary plans call for the residential structure on the Central Park Avenue side of the property to hang over a “mixed-use collaborative plaza” at the southwest corner of Chicago and Central Park avenues. 

DPD previously indicated that, while developers don’t have to follow every aspect of the design, sticking closer to the city’s vision for the site will work in their favor. 

The Community Development Commission approved issuing the bids and using the eminent domain unanimously and without discussion. 

For the latest information about this and other Invest South/West development proposals, visit https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/invest_sw/home/requests-for-proposals.html