Street Rendering of the Michaels/KMW proposal | Credit: Michaels/KMW

The City of Chicago last week officially released the details of potential development proposals from the three project teams that hope to redevelop the vacant, city-owned lots around East Garfield Park’s Kedzie/Lake Green Line el station.

The Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD) is looking to build mixed-use development, with commercial spaces on the first floor and affordable housing above, but it left many details to the developers.

All three development proposals emphasized they would hire from the community and/or offer opportunities for local vendors,  and that, if they win, they will take resident input into account. DPD is currently looking for East Garfield Park residents to be part of the project evaluation panel, which will choose the winning development team. Residents can nominate evaluators using an online form on the project website.

For this project, DPD invited developers and architects to submit their qualifications and put them together into development teams.

The first development team is made up of Citizens for a Better Community, an Austin-based affordable housing developer, Botanical City, a Chicago landscape designer, and Productora and JGMA design firms, which are based in Mexico City and River North, respectively. Their proposal for Site 2 calls for a six-story, 60,020 sq. ft. building with 30 one-bedroom apartments, 22 two-bedroom apartments and a 6,030 sq. ft. retail space that would be split between three tenants. Productora co-founder Wonne Ickx said they took a cue from the Garfield Park Conservatory to build a winter garden in the middle of the building.

“We have envisioned a central winter garden and lush atrium filled with vegetation to promote social interaction,” he said. “The very important source of inspiration for this project is a rich history of East Garfield Park. We believe contemporary architecture works best when it seeks out, respects and understands its local history.”

Melvin Bailey, head of Citizens for a Better Community, said the project would continue his company’s long record of hiring young men in the community and training them in building trades.

“If they give us their guns, we will give them a hammer or a drill to change their lives,” he said. “We know that, once they take that hammer or a drill and get some viable skills in their life, they will not go back to the life of crime.”

The second team is made up of Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group, the Black-owned, Chicago-based Imagine Group, Los Angeles-based Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects and Chicago-based HED design firm. Their proposal calls for a seven-story,  72,160 sq. ft. building that includes two for-sale townhomes, 60 apartments (including 4 three-bedroom apartments) and 1,700 square foot worth of flexible retail spaces. Each floor will have a laundry and an open-air garden space, and there will be a public plaza facing the el station entrance.

Fred Spencer, the principal at Imagine Group, said “our commitment is to bring minority firms, minority contractors, as much as possible” in every phase of the project. He and Imagine Group co-owner Torrey Barrett will use their respective experiences in the wholesale food and restaurant industry to help residents who want to launch a food-related business get off the ground.

Barrett also said that Kleo Community Family Center, an anti-violence nonprofit, will provide summer jobs to local youth, as well as other services.

The third team includes Humboldt Park-based KMW Communities, the Camden, New Jersey-based Michaels Organization, TRUdelta, Humboldt Park-based Studio Dwell, Los Angeles-based Brooks + Scarpa. Their proposal calls for a seven-story, 78,000 sq. ft. building with 63 apartments, mostly one-bedrooms and three-bedrooms, and 5,600 sq. ft. of retail space.

KMW owner Bill Williams said he saw the retail spaces as an opportunity for entrepreneurs utilizing the Hatchery food business incubator across the street to take their business to the next level.

“We’re not looking to have a large big box retail,” he said. “We’re looking for smaller spaces with flexibility.”

For the most part, the proposals focused on Site 2 – the lots at the southwest corner of the Lake/Kedzie intersection, at 3201-09 W. Lake St. and 201 N. Kedzie Ave., with plans for the remaining two lots left up in the air. All three proposals had certain similarities – wider sidewalks, emphasis on small businesses rather than large retailers, and putting in community gathering spaces for the tenants.

The Lake/Kedzie project is part of the latest round of Invest South/West projects, where the city invites developers to submit proposals for vacant, usually city-owned land in communities which haven’t seen much investment in several decades. Aside from Site 2, the proposal includes the former location of the Garfield Park Community Garden, 3148-56 W. Lake St., and Site 3 at 112 N. Kedzie Ave. and 3201-15 W. Maypole Ave.

To see the full individual presentations, nominate evaluators and submit feedback, visit

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...