The proposed Kedzie and Lake site private parcel acquisitions.| Credit: Javier Govea/GoogleMaps

The Chicago Community Development Commission voted unanimously to recommend granting the city authority to buy three largely vacant parcels – two near the corner of Kedzie Avenue and Washington Boulevard and at the northwest corner of the Kedzie Avenue/Lake Street intersection.

During its Jan. 10 meeting, Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) officials revealed the city is looking to buy land to build upon the proposed mixed-use development around the Kedzie/Lake Green Line ‘L’ station. That project is still in planning stages, with the city expected to select a developer by summer. Officials didn’t elaborate on what the next phase would entail, except that it would most likely also be a mixed-use development with a retail component.

The next phase will involve lots at 3200 W. Lake St., 100 N. Kedzie St. and 107-111 N. Kedzie St. The 111 N. Kedzie St. site was home to One Eleven Food & Liquors convenience store, which lost its business license in July 2020 because it allegedly failed to comply with a plan to mitigate criminal activity. Since then, the owner sold the land to a Northwest Side resident.

DPD planner Ernest Bellamy said the second phase will allow the city “to create a safe, competitive mixed-use environment” around the Kedzie/Lake station.

“[It will] encourage improvements to revitalize commercial corridors of the area and promote the area as a place to do business and help eliminate the blighted conditions that cause the area to qualify for a TIF,” he said.

The properties on the west side of Kedzie Avenue fall within the 28th Ward, while the properties on the east side are in the 27th Ward. Bellamy said that both aldermen Walter Burnett (27th) and Jason Ervin (28th) support the land acquisition. Ervin told the commission that he wanted to capitalize on the Hatchery to spur area redevelopment.

“Those parcels that are being aired are pretty much blighted” he said. “They have not produced anything of [value] for the community.”

When the city wants to make an offer to buy the land within a Tax Increment Financing district, the request must clear the Community Development Commission before it goes to the Chicago City Council for approval. There is no clear timeline for when the city might purchase the land, or when the second phase will get underway.

DPD is currently in the process of looking for a developer for three groups of lots. Site 1 is at 3148-56 W. Lake St., the former location of the Garfield Park Community Garden; Site 2 is at 3201-09 W. Lake St. and 201 N. Kedzie Ave.; and Site 3 is at 112 N. Kedzie Ave. and 3201-15 W. Maypole Ave. Over the past six months, the department selected several developers and design firms, and brought them together into three developer teams. The teams are currently working on developing their proposals for the site.

While that project would be built entirely on city-owned land, the next phase would be built on land that is currently privately owned. The Lake Street property is owned by Natoma LLC, which, according to Secretary of State records, is owned by Andreas Bunjamin [sic] and Meidawaty Hotrono [sic], both of San Francisco. The 410 N. Kedzie Ave. lot is owned by Sami and Hitham Khalil, both of Orland Park. According to Cook County records, on June 1, 2022, they were fined a total of $1,840 for failure to cut weeds on the lot and properly display ownership information.

But the property on the other side of Kedzie Avenue, directly south of the Hatchery food business incubator, has proved to be particularly contentious. Until June 15, 2022, East Garfield Park resident Percell Searcy owned the land, and he operated the One Eleven Food & Liquors for 42 years. The city revoked its business license in 2019 for allegedly failing to comply with a safety plan developed with the Chicago Police Department.

In 2016, there were shootings in the area on consecutive days, one of which involved someone opening fire from within the store, according to the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. After a temporary closure, the city required store owners to agree to a plan to reduce crime in the immediate area outside the store before they could reopen.

Searcy appealed the 2019 decision and lost in July 2020, leading the store to close for good. At the time, his niece, Verlinda Dotson, told Block Club Chicago that they tried to comply with the plan, installing extra lighting and cameras, building an iron fence and hiring security guards, but that, in the end, there was only so much they could do in the face of crime in the area.

At the time, the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce protested the closure, but the city stuck to its decision. According to property records, Searcy ended up selling the land and the building to Nasr Ali, of Mayfair.

While the development commission agenda mentioned the lot to the south of it, at 3148 W. Washington Blvd., it wasn’t part of the final vote.

DPD Commissioner Maurice Cox said that Invest South/West is pivoting away from single major developments, and more toward multiple developments that help fill the gaps in existing corridors.

“We find that the answer isn’t a single building — it’s multiple buildings and multiple blocks,” he said. “We need to reconstruct the Main Street.”

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...