The city is inviting West Garfield Park residents to share their takes on the two finalist proposals to redevelop the former Aldi site, and to nominate someone who would help pick the winner. 

Aldi abruptly shut down the West Garfield Park location near Hamilton Avenue/Madison Street intersection, one of only two grocery stores in the neighborhood, in early October 2021. Since then, the city acquired the building and the commercial buildings on the entire 3800 block of Madison Street and invited developers to come up with proposals for a mixed-use development that would include a new grocery store, affordable housing and public recreational spaces.

Both finalists have West Side connections and local development experience. Westgate Partners team includes local developers Citizens Building a Better Community and TruDelta, and the Garfield Gather team includes the West Side United collaborative.

The Westgate Partners proposal has a smaller residential component, but it makes up for it with more commercial areas, a larger grocery store space of the two and more recreational amenities for residents. The Garfield Gather also has a larger public plaza, and it is the more expensive proposal of the two.

With the finalists selected, the Chicago Department of Planning and Development put the proposals up for public review. It is expected to choose a finalist by next year, with the goal of getting the construction started in 2025 and having commercial and residential components up and running by 2027.

The project is part of former mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Invest South/West initiative, which seeks to develop vacant sites in disinvested areas. In the case of the Aldi site, DPD was looking for affordable housing, a grocery store, retail and a public plaza. The winning team will be encouraged to apply for federal low-income housing credits – something that both Westgate and Garfield Gather indicated they will do – which would require them to keep the housing affordable for at least 30 years. Affordability is based on the Area Median Income for the Chicago region.

Garfield Gather’s proposal is the physically denser of the two, with six-story, 69-unit building on the east end, and a five-story, 32-unit building on the west end. Both would have retail spaces on the first floor. A single-story, 11,689 sq. ft. grocery store and an 11,700 sq. ft. public plaza would be located in the middle. Overall, the development would have 52 one-bedroom units, 40 two-bedroom units and nine three-bedroom units. 

According to the development presentation, the team wanted to avoid “having any hard edges” and make it comfortable and welcoming. The two buildings would both have green roofs. The team identified several businesses that would use the commercial spaces, mentioning Little Italy-based Taylor’s Tacos and West Garfield Park-based Tidy Up Experts cleaning service, and they planned to reach out to the community to find more local vendors. 

Westgate Partners’ proposal is taller and more visually striking. The nine-story, 72-unit east building features looming, cube-like “icons” that house community rooms and windows of widely varying sizes. According to the proposal video, the team wanted to break away from grid-like patterns that define traditional apartments. The Duplex, a Black-owned Logan Square restaurant, would open a second location in 3,000 sq. ft. ground floor space, with outdoor dining space partially filling the 10,000 sq. ft. plaza facing the Madison/Hamlin intersection. It will include five business incubator storefronts, and the four-story, 16-unit west building on the west side would feature a 10,900 sq. ft. grocery store and a 2,900 sq. ft. coffee shop on the first floor. According to the presentation, Beverly-based Afro Joes Coffee & Tea expressed interest in using the coffee shop space. The middle building would have a tenant-only outdoor rooftop deck.

Westgate estimates that its proposal would cost $78.1 million, while Garfield Gather’s proposal is estimated to cost $86.4 million. The winning proposal would get at least $20 million in city funding. 

DPD is inviting residents and business owners to give feedback. They are also inviting the community to nominate “evaluators” – community members who will be part of the panel that will help pick a winner. 

To review the proposals, submit feedback and nominate evaluators, visit https://www.chicago.gov/city/en/sites/dpd-rfqs-and-rfps/home/west-garfield-park-madison-hamlin.html

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...