A plan to transform a vacant bank building into affordable housing aimed at preventing displacement is headed to City Council for a vote after being unanimously approved by the housing committee on July 14. 

The city’s planning department began seeking developers for the affordable housing project in the spring. The project would involve the Pioneer Trust & Savings Bank building and surrounding lots in the 4000 block of West North Avenue and the 1600 block of North Pulaski Road for developers to build on.

Next week’s City Council vote would allow city officials to buy the property just in case the developers cannot do so on their own.

The plan is part of the city’s Invest South/West initiative to target the long-neglected stretch of the North Avenue corridor that was once an economic backbone for the West Side.

“It’s the most prominent structure on North Avenue,” said Mike Parella, a project manager for the planning department. “Its redevelopment … would be vital for securing a vibrant future for the neighborhood and its existing residents.”

The project would turn the Pioneer Bank building into a Latino Heritage Center and include the construction of a building to the north of the bank, with all units dedicated to affordable housing.

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) praised the project for bringing investment to the area and helping to “preserve our cultural identity in that area and repel any symbols of gentrification,” he said.

The five-story Pioneer Bank was constructed in 1925 in a neoclassical architectural style. The building has been a Chicago landmark since 2012, but it has sat vacant for 13 years.

The current owner of the bank building and surrounding lots, Pulaski Investments, has been unsuccessful in redeveloping the properties, Parella said.

The city’s request for proposals for the Pioneer Bank project is open until August, when the city will begin the process of selecting a developer. The selection process and the final design of the redevelopment project will incorporate community feedback, Parella said.

Developers that submit proposals will present their plans at community roundtables so residents can offer their input and evaluate each plan using surveys designed by the planning department.

“We will look to the community and the alderman to guide the decision-making process,” Parella said.

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