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Planned and Delivered: Long March to Zapata Apts.

“The answer to our prayers.”

That’s how Miriam Rodriguez describes her new and affordable second-floor apartment at 3230 W. Armitage Ave. in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Miriam Rodriguez loves her new affordable apartment at 3230 W. Armitage Ave. and so does the rest of her family.

John McCarron

Her sentiment parallels the sigh of relief expressed by Joy Aruguete when asked how it feels to have completed, finally, the Zapata Apartments after seven anxious years of struggle and hard work.

“It’s been a long road,” said the executive director of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. “But when you’re doing the right thing, you know success will be there in the end.”

Then again, not everyone thought it was the “right thing.”

A small group of not-in-my-backyard landowners lobbied hard, and even filed a lawsuit, to stop construction of Zapata’s 61 subsidized apartments divided among four sites near the intersection of Armitage and Kimball avenues. There were challenges in securing a needed zoning change. The project’s multi-tiered “lasagna” included complicated TIF financing.

Costly delays

But Bickerdike stuck with it, even as months turned to years and carrying costs on the four acquired sites – interest payments, property taxes, security, maintenance, etc. – strained BRC’s ledger. It helped that the Logan Square Neighborhood Assn. (LSNA) also stood by the effort. Of course they did. Strengthening that frayed stretch of Armitage Avenue and easing the rent squeeze on working families was a key element in both groups’ quality-of-life plans completed in 2005 as part of LISC Chicago’s New Communities Program. The Logan Square plan called for a “school-to-school” strategy that would fill vacant lots with housing for families sending children to four nearby schools.

The four new buildings comprising the Zapata Apartments were designed to fill vacant lots such as this on Armitage Avenue in the Logan Square neighborhood.

Juan Francisco Hernandez

“They went door-to-door in support of this project,” said Aruguete of the way LSNA organizers canvassed the neighborhood to dispel the “misinformation” spread by NIMBYs opposed to subsidized housing. “LSNA was instrumental from the beginning.”

Now that all 61 units are completed and leased, the two charter members of what’s now called LISC’s New Communities Network plan a gala dedication ceremony for 3 p.m. Thursday, April 24 at the largest of the buildings, at the southeast corner of Armitage and St. Louis avenues.

Good roof overhead

A phalanx of neighborhood leaders and elected officials are sure to be there, but none will be busier, or happier, than Miriam Rodriguez. The 62-year-old mother of three grown boys will be helping serve the food … and telling anyone who’ll listen what a blessing Zapata Apartments has been for her, her disabled husband, Felipe, and indeed, the entire neighborhood.

“Everything is so modern,” she gushed recently to a visitor while showing off her kitchen console, over which she has hung a hand-lettered version of “The Kitchen Prayer.” An asthmatic, Miriam said she most appreciates her handsome brick building’s air conditioning, its Green Certified energy savings, its smoke-free rule and its proximity to a mercado on Armitage where she can get fresh vegetables and some Puerto Rican favorites.

Here's 3230 W. Armitage, where Miriam Rodriguez lives.

Gordon Walek

“Having a good roof over your head is everything,” Rodriguez said, especially at a rent she and Felipe can handle on their Social Security income.

Benefits to the neighborhood have been manifold. Bickerdike’s own Humboldt Construction Company was general contractor and took on 87 laborers and skilled tradesmen – mostly from the neighborhood – to do the work. BRC figures the project generated $2.5 million in tax revenues and $6 million in spending for the local economy.

1955 N. St. Louis

Gordon Walek

LISC Chicago was an early backer with a total of $4.6 million in financing for pre-development costs, site prep and construction. BMO Harris handled construction financing with equity funding via federal tax credits from the National Equity Fund. The city provided a $4.6 million TIF grant and the state pitched in almost $1 million.

The $26 million project, aimed at working families with incomes between $20,000 and $44,000, is spread across four locations along the Logan Square/Humboldt Park border: 3230 W. Armitage (12 units); 1955 N. St. Louis Ave. (30 units); 3503 W. Armitage Ave. (3 units); and 3734 W. Cortland St. (16 units).

3734 W. Cortland

Gordon Walek

“The most impressive thing,” said Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director, “is that they (Bickerdike and LSNA) strategically set out to strengthen both the Armitage corridor and their stock of affordable housing. They stuck to their plan, no matter what, and they made it happen.”

See larger photos of the Zapata buildings.

More information: BRC’s Libby Juliá-Vázquez 773-278-5669

Posted in Housing, Humboldt Park, Logan Square


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