548 Development, a Black-owned developer currently working on turning the long-vacant “Silver Shovel” property in North Lawndale into an industrial campus, is looking to build a mixed-use development with a grocery store and a coffee shop further north, in West Humboldt Park.
The Silver Shovel site was an illegal dumping ground. In the 1990s, the FBI “allowed the dumping in order to catch politicians being bribed into allowing the dumping. The site wasn’t only home to hazardous waste — it was home to corruption,” according to Block Club Chicago reporting.
548 Development CEO Robert ‘A.J.’ Patton said recently that he was lured into West Humboldt Park because he wants to “get ahead” of gentrification and build housing that current residents can afford and businesses that are in short supply in the community, namely a grocery store and a coffee shop.
548 Development already bought the buildings at 3839-51 W. Chicago Ave., and it’s currently in the process of acquiring the nearby vacant lots at 3831 W. Chicago Ave., 3853 W. Chicago Ave. and 739-741 W. Springfield Ave.
The Chicago City Council needs to approve the land sale and the zoning changes that would allow for the project to be built. The process is still in the early stages. The Chicago Community Development Commission voted unanimously on Oct. 11 to recommend approval of the sale. The Chicago Plan Commission is scheduled to review the zoning aspect on Oct. 20. Patton said that the city hasn’t told him when the matter will go for City Council approval, but he tentatively plans to finish construction in the fall of 2024.
According to its website, 548 Development is working to bring environmentally friendly developments to minority communities, as well as to offer contracting opportunities to local businesses. Patton said he was interested in the site because “to me, it’s kind of right at the edge of where the gentrification is happening.
“If we’re not intentional about [what we put] in that section of the city, we’re going to have someone else deciding what it is,” he said. “What I wanted to do is jump ahead and see what we can do right now, what we can do that’s structurally sound and has good [amenities], and what we can be proud of.”
According to the plans submitted to the city, the project will be a four-story building with commercial areas on the first floor, with 19 studio apartments, 12 one-bedrooms, 15 two-bedrooms and five three-bedrooms located on the floors above. Forty-eight out of 60 units will have their rents capped based on the Area Median Income for the Chicago region. Three studios will have the rent capped at 30% of AMI. The rest of the affordable units will be capped at 60% AMI. Under the current income limits, that can range between $21,900 a year and $62,520 a year. The project received $1.5 million in federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, which require the recipient to keep the units affordable for at least 30 years.
The project description submitted to the city mentioned green roofs where tenants can relax. The roofs will also cool the building during hot months. Patton said that the building will have solar panels at the top floor.
The plans submitted to the city show a grocery store and café space taking up most of the first floor, facing Chicago Avenue. Patton said the owners of Hyde Park-based Bamenda Coffee and South Shore’s Manny’s Grocery store will operate in the space as Bamenda Grocery and Coffee.
The building will have a 48-car parking lot in the rear and 32 bike parking spaces, 20 of which will be reserved for tenants. Patton said that they will have two electric vehicle charging stations.
According to the fact sheet presented at the Oct. 11 meeting, the project will cost a little under $41 million, with the funding coming from private sources, a $353,000 ComEd grant, $2.4 million in city funds, and tax credits.
Patton said they’ve done “close to seven to 10”community meetings, working with the West Humboldt Park Development Council and Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), whose ward includes the entire property.
“[The response during the community meetings] has been overwhelmingly positive, almost exclusively positive,” Patton said. “You’re talking grocery store, coffee shop, an affordable place to live and low utilities. I mean, it’s going to be special.”
West Humboldt Park Development Council Executive Director Adrienne Whitney Boykin said that her organization is eager to see the project become the reality, especially considering that West Humboldt Park only has a handful of grocery stores and none of them are in this vicinity. And she added that, as someone who lived in the community since the 1970s and saw the retail corridors hollow out first-hand, she was personally excited to see it come to fruition.
“We’re very excited about it,” Whitney Boykin said. “We’ve been waiting a long time to have development along the [Chicago Avenue] corridor. I’ve watched [the community] change, I watched a lot of businesses close up, so it’s a two-full for me. We’re looking at the corridor where people can walk shop and live.”
She agreed with Patton that the community has been supportive of the project
“We had many meetings with different people in the community, just trying to put the word out,” Whitney Boykin said. “People are already saying – where can I go to apply for the apartments?”