Sep 6, 2013
With nearly $100 million in TIF funds being spent on the first phase of a massive development on the south lakefront, a community summit on Saturday will discuss strategies to win a community benefits agreement for the project.
The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA meets Saturday, September 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3200 E. 91st.
Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Partnership for Working Families will discuss how community benefits agreements (CBAs) across the country have won opportunities for local workers and communities, and Tom Tresser of CivicLab will present an analysis of all TIFs in three local wards.
The Coalition will also release results of a new survey of Southeast Side residents.
Site developer McCaffrey Interests has been granted $96 million in TIF support from the city for the first phase of a vast new redevelopment of the former site of US Steel’s South Works (USX) plant, dubbed Chicago Lakeside. Ultimately McCaffrey plans over 13,000 units of housing, 17.5 million square feet of retail, 125 acres of parks and a 1,500-slip marina.
The TIF subsidy will cover one-fourth of development costs for the first phase of the project, which will include 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants and 848 units of housing. The first phase is planned for the northwest corner of the 530-acre site, which runs south from 79th Street along the lakefront to the Calumet River.
Concerns about displacement
A major concern is that development could cause displacement in the adjoining area, as it has in other communities, with property tax increases as home values rise forcing longtime residents to leave, said Amelia NietoGomez of the Alliance of the South East, an organizer of the coalition.
The coalition wants property tax relief for longtime residents as part of a CBA, she said. According to the new survey, families on the Southeast Side have lived in the community for an average of 32.6 years; in South Chicago and the East Side, the average is 50.1 years, she said.
“Our people have lived here and worked here,” said Sylvia Ortega, a 37-year resident who is president of the Bush Homeowners and Tenants Association, directly across from the site. “We survived the closing of the steel mills, the unemployment, the gangs and the blight. We want to stay here.
“Our tax dollars are paying for the development,” she said. “Our community needs to benefit from the development. We don’t want to be left behind.”
Housing is another issue that organizers hope a CBA will address. While the TIF provides for 20 percent of new units to be affordable, the affordability standard is based on the six-county area median income rather than the immediate area, where it’s much lower. That means even affordable units could be out of reach of local residents without extra protections, NietoGomez said.
“You don’t want an artificial line between the new development and the existing residential community, and one way to prevent that is to make sure new affordable housing is on-site and fits the profile of neighborhood income,” commented Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network.
The Coalition is also calling for training programs and employment of local residents in the new development — and for partnerships with local schools focusing on science and technology.
“This development is going to take decades, so we want education and training for kids who are in school now so that when they graduate, they can qualify not just for construction jobs but as project managers, engineers, and for green jobs,” said NietoGomez.
“Development is great, we are looking forward to it, but there needs to be a balance with community needs,” she said. “The families that live here deserve to be able to stay, and they deserve to benefit from the development.”
Tresser said that of the $96 million allocated for the first phase of the project, just $1 million is set aside for job training. “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to reach the grassroots.”
He added: “If we’re going to be spending public money, we should be getting high-quality, good-paying jobs.”
Two TIF districts — Chicago Lakeside and South Works — cover the site. According to a McCaffrey brochure, the city has committed to spending $60 million on a new high school and $20 million for a new marina, among other projects. The Chicago Park District has committed $120 million to new park development on the site, according to the brochure.
Currently work is being completed on the extension of Lake Shore Drive and Route 41 to serve the site, funded by $30 million in federal and state funds.