$100M project planned for East Garfield Park

Rebirth Garfield Park the brainchild of West Side natives

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By Igor Studenkov

Contributing Reporter

A couple who grew up on the West Side are looking to build an estimated $100 million mixed-used development geared toward artists, designers and other area entrepreneurs in East Garfield Park. They have the funding and the land to pull it off, and are currently waiting to get the OK from the city of Chicago. 

The East Garfield Park Design District, also known as Rebirth Garfield Park, is the brainchild of Siri Hibbler, the CEO of the Garfield Park Chamber of Commerce, and her husband, Milton Hibbler. Both of them grew up on the West Side. Siri Hibbler is a graduate of Marshall High School. 

Stretching along the vacant lots on both sides of the section of Madison Street between California and Francisco avenues, the plan calls for an arts center, a business incubator and several mixed-use buildings that would have commercial and business spaces on the first floor and apartments above. Karl Guider, who is part of the Guider Group, is the architect designing the project.

Siri Hibbler said that the exact timing of the project will depend on how soon their application clears the city, but they hope to have the first phase of the project up and running by the spring of next year.

Hibbler said that the couple's major priority was to help local residents get their ideas off the ground and ensure that they are able to stay in the neighborhood in the face of gentrification. 

The development would be built on vacant lots on both sides of Madison Street and the lots around the area where 5th Avenue splits off Madison Street. Hibbler explained that some of that land comes from the Cook County Land Bank, and that they are purchasing other lots from private owners. The buildings that are already there won't be touched, though Hibbler said that they are willing to help the building owners improve their spaces. 

The construction of the East Garfield Park Design District has been split into three phases. The first, roughly $30 million, phase calls for a mixed-used building at the northwest corner of the California/Madison intersection and a "design and technology center" business incubator at the southeast corner. 

The second phase calls for the construction of an art center and gallery space at the southwestern corner intersection, as well as another mixed-used building. 

The third phase calls for the construction of the remaining mixed-used buildings on the north side of Madison Street, a play lot, a grand entrance sign and a performance space at 5th Avenue. 

Together, Hibbler said, the mixed-use buildings would house 114 apartments and 50 businesses. The total cost of the project is estimated at around $100 million, according to a Crain's Chicago Business article. Hibbler did not identify who the private investors were who would fund the money, but she said told Crain's that those investors are willing to fund the whole amount. 

She said that the development doesn't have any business tenants lined up yet, but the goal is to give the first priority to business owners and entrepreneurs from the community. 

"We want them to have opportunities to have businesses in any of our buildings," Hibbler said. "We will be reaching out to the community first."

The apartments would have affordable rents, something that she said was important as gentrification slowly but surely moves west along East Garfield Park.

"We need affordable housing [in order] for people not to be displaced, because of astronomical [rent increases] that are coming our way," Hibbler said. "So we need to build affordable housing."

She emphasized that, when says "affordable," she means housing that working families in the neighborhood can realistically afford — not the city's definitions of affordability, which are based on the income averages for the city as a whole. For example, Hibbler said, two-bedroom apartments will go for $800.

When asked how they plan to keep the rents affordable in the face of increasing taxes and property values, she said that the apartments would be open to tenants who have Chicago Housing Authority-issued Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. 

And, generally speaking, Hibbler said they felt that maintaining affordability was important enough that she and her husband were willing to pay whatever it takes to keep the rent at that level. 

Hibbler said that they hope to have the first phase of the project up and running by the spring of 2019. The couple is currently waiting for the city to approve construction permits. 

CONTACT: igorst3@hotmail.com    

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