Chicago Fire Training Center approved by city council despite complaints from housing activists

CHICAGO — Alderpeople on Wednesday approved a plan to build a practice facility for the Chicago Fire professional soccer team on land that once housed public housing — even after a city council committee initially voted against it. the measurement.

Fire, owned by billionaire Joe Mansueto, hopes to build the $80 million practice facility on the site of former ABLA homes, most of which were demolished in 2007.

At the time, the Chicago Housing Authority pledged to redevelop the property with more than 2,400 upgraded affordable and mixed-use housing units, in part for displaced residents. The property is bounded by Roosevelt Road, Ashland Avenue, 14th Street and Loomis Street.

But most of this housing was never built, and much of the site has since been used as part of Addams/Medill Park. The plan to now set aside the land for a private sports franchise has drawn criticism from some community members and housing activists.

But at Wednesday’s Council meeting, several West Side aldermen spoke out in favor of the development, arguing that residents of the remaining ABLA homes and those living nearby were generally in favour.

“Our job at the end of the day is to represent the residents that we are obligated to do, and the residents here support this endeavor,” Ald said. Jason Ervin (28th), whose service will be built.

The measure was approved 37-11 on Wednesday by the full city council.

Voting against the plan were: Alds. Daniel La Spata (1st), Pat Dowell (3rd), Anthony Beale (9th), Jeanette Taylor (20th), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Gilbert Villegas (36th), André Vazquez (40th), Matt Martin (47th) and Maria Hadden (49th).

Ramirez-Rosa said he doesn’t believe the Chicago Fire proposal is “the best possible deal” for Chicago residents, and that it won’t lead to badly needed affordable housing. He and Sigcho-Lopez urged their colleagues to delay voting on the proposal.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Aldus. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) speaks during a city council meeting on September 21, 2022.

“I have spoken with public housing advocates, many of whom have been involved in the work of building affordable housing for decades, many of whom are subject matter experts, and they tell me this is not a good business for the city of Chicago,” Ramirez-Rosa said.

The training center has yet to be approved by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Chicago Housing Authority Development Office Ann McKenzie said this week.

Credit: Supplied/Chicago Plan Commission
A site plan for the proposed Chicago Fire practice facility on the Near West Side.

Wednesday’s vote came after 24 hours of procedural reshuffles involving the establishment.

The ordinance was initially voted down 7-5 at a Tuesday meeting of the city council’s zoning committee.

But at the end of that meeting, Zoning Chairman Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) moved to suspend the committee and reconsider the proposal at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, just 30 minutes before the full city council meeting. Several aldermen of the committee were absent on Tuesday.

In a roughly 15-minute meeting on Wednesday morning, the committee then voted in favor of the proposal, along with Alds. David Moore (17th), Mike Rodriguez (22nd) and Felix Cardona (31st) changed their votes to yes.

This decision sparked outrage from Ald. Beale, who said he was not opposed to the current plan, only the process by which it was passed by city council.

“Yesterday, this point was rejected in committee, just yesterday. So why do we have a committee, if we suspend, if we meet again, to circumvent the vote that took place yesterday? Beale said Wednesday.

The proposed fire complex will include a 50,000 square foot two-story headquarters for locker rooms, training and offices, as well as five and a half football fields and 150 parking spaces. An inflatable bubble above one of the fields would be installed for the winter, officials said.

Fire officials also discussed creating a youth mentorship program and an after-school football training academy.

At a post-City Council press conference on Wednesday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed concerns about the football facility and praised Mansueto for investing in Chicago communities, especially those that have historically suffered from divestment.

“We have this vacant lot that there was no plan for. We have an investor, who is not only willing to invest in building the headquarters of the Chicago fire crew, keeping them in the city, which is important. There will also be a range of opportunities for youth football players which will involve more children,” she said.

Credit: City of Chicago
A rendering of the Chicago Fire’s $80 million training facility on the Near West Side. The campus will be built on 24 acres of vacant land on the former ABLA public homes.

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