Construction has resumed on the site of the old U.S. Bank building. | FILE

This year will be particularly consequential for West Side developers and elected officials, with several projects in the works and the battle over the city’s important ward map heating up.

Every 10 years, the Chicago City Council adjusts the ward map to account for the changes in population, ensuring that each ward represents an approximately equal number of people. Under city law, if the City Council fails to approve a new map by Dec. 1 of the year the census results are released, a new ward map will be created after a referendum by voters unless at least 41 out of 50 aldermen vote for a new map by June 2022.

Although the City Council didn’t approve the map by the first deadline, there is still a possibility that it could approve one before the second deadline.

There are currently two maps under consideration. The Latino Caucus map would create 15 majority-Hispanic wards and 16 majority-Black wards. Another map released by the City Council’s Rules Committee would create 14 majority-Hispanic wards, 16 majority-Black wards and turn the 27th Ward “plurality-Black,” where Blacks comprise the largest demographic category, but, at 46% of the population, not large enough to form a majority.

The Rules Committee would largely leave ward boundaries within the Austin community area intact. The part of Austin within the 24th Ward would extend further into industrial areas south of the Eisenhower Expressway. The 28th Ward would include a bigger portion of North Lawndale while the 27th Ward would include most of East Garfield Park east of Sacramento Boulevard.

The 28th Ward would expand into the industrial portion of West Humboldt Park, although the map keeps the Joint Public Safety Training Center within the 37th Ward. Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has been a vocal supporter of the controversial development, which critics have called the “Cop Academy.”

The Latino Caucus map would spell more dramatic changes for the West Side. Galewood, which would remain wholly in the 29th Ward under the Rules Committee map, would be split between the 29th and 36th wards under the proposed Latino Caucus map.

The 27th Ward would absorb portions of West Garfield Park and North Lawndale, splitting the former between two wards for the first time in decades, while taking the 28th Ward out of North Lawndale entirely and reducing the 27th Ward portion of East Garfield Park. The 28th Ward would include a larger portion of southeast Austin and the south half of West Humboldt Park, including the training center.

The Latino Caucus submitted its map for referendum on Dec. 2. Rules Committee Chairwoman Ald. Michelle Harris (8th) said that she would hold public hearings on the remap, but none had been scheduled as of Dec. 30.

In an interview shortly after the Rules Committee map was released, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) declined to comment on either map specifically. He said that, since his ward didn’t see as much population change, he would prefer to keep it intact.

“The 29th Ward population was almost perfect, so I don’t see the big need to change the boundaries of the ward, but I understand that we must work together and that means possible [boundary changes],” the alderman said.

In Galewood, work on the long-delayed redevelopment of the former U.S. Bank building at 6700 W. North Ave. resumed last September. Five Thirty One Partners LLC is planning to renovate the historic U.S. Bank by adding a third floor and building a total of 36 residential units. It remains to be seen whether the building will include the new Galewood branch library on the first floor.

Last fall, the Chicago Public Library system got a $7 million state construction grant, but library spokesperson Patrick Malloy emphasized that the location wasn’t necessarily a done deal. Viktor Jakovljevic, who owns the former U.S. Bank property, said that, while they hoped to finish construction by winter 2022, he thought the end of 2022 was a more realistic estimate.

In North Lawndale, the city is planning to convert the little-used portion of the Altenheim freight railroad line, between Kostner and California avenues, into a walking and biking trail similar to the Bloomingdale Trail/606 on the Northwest Side. The Department of Planning and Development held community meetings in 2021 and is expected to release a final report on the proposal in the beginning of 2022.

In East Garfield Park, the Boston-based nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing is planning to build two mixed-use buildings at the spot where 5th Avenue dead-ends into Kedzie Avenue, at 3145 and 3150 W. Fifth Ave.

In response to resident feedback, the nonprofit agreed to make all units affordable to average residents of the Chicagoland region, with apartments in the south building and either condos or cooperative housing in the north building. POAH hopes to start construction in the spring of 2022.

In West Humboldt Park, Amazon is planning to open a 140,000-square-foot distribution center on the Allied Metal property at 1260 N. Kostner Ave. The company plans to open the facility by the end of 2022.

Mitts, whose ward includes the property, indicated in a statement that the company would create “nearly 500 full- and part-time jobs.” But Nobel Neighbors, a local community organization, expressed concerns about the impact of increased truck traffic on nearby homes.


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...