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Ribbon Cutting for ‘Little Heaven’ on Armitage

They cut the ceremonial ribbon, sure, but it was the lyric they sang from the traditional Mexican love song – Cielito Lindo – that captured the moment.

Funston School's Quatro band provided music for the event.

John McCarron

The newly completed Zapata Apartments are indeed a “pretty little heaven” for the 61 families who have moved there. But for the politicians, housing officials and community organizers gathered for the April 24 dedication, getting it done caused a lot of “Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay,” as the song goes (see Long March to Zapata Apartments).

Any lingering doubt it was worth the effort got washed away by the smiling eyes and fret work of the Quatro string band from nearby Funston Elementary. Like Zapata Apartments, the fresh-faced guitarists look like the future … and the future looks good.

“This was our vision for the community,” said Joy Aruguete, executive director of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. (BRC), welcoming nearly 100 guests to the Zapata community room at 1955 N. St. Louis Ave. “You can build good schools. You can make sure the schools give good education. But if people can’t afford to live in the community, there’s no advantage.”

Joy Aruguete of Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. used very large scissors as she joined city and neighborhood leaders to cut the ribbon.

John McCarron

Aruguete made special mention of LISC Chicago, which fronted the initial predevelopment financing to plan the affordable housing development and begin acquiring the four vacant sites along Armitage Avenue, near the Logan Square/Humboldt Park border.

“Had it not been for the (LISC) New Communities Program,” Aruguete said. “this project wouldn’t have had the force behind it to bring us together, to plan, to build something like Zapata.”

Risk and reward

City planning Commissioner Andrew Mooney, who directed LISC Chicago when Zapata was undertaken in 2005, said it was “extremely important” to take that early risk. The idea was to support the linked planning efforts of its New Communities partners – BRC and the Logan Square Neighborhood Assn. (LSNA).

Other VIP speakers included Ald. Rey Colon (35th) and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), in whose ward all four Zapata buildings are now located, following the recent redraw of ward boundaries.

Rosalilia Zamora and her children dreamed of living in the new apartments. Now they do.

John McCarron

Colon, a former board chair of LSNA, also credited LISC. “The compassion for people to have dignity and a respectable place to live,” he said of the tidal swing of public opinion that rejected NIMBY opposition to subsidized housing, “that all came, on the grassroots level, from LSNA and their work with LISC New Communities.”

Perhaps the best testimony, though, was delivered in Spanish, through a translator, by Rosalilia Zamora. She’s a parent mentor at nearby McAuliffe School and her family was among the first to move in.

“We lived a half block away and every day, on our walk home from school, my daughters would ask ‘Mama, do you think we will ever be able to live in such a beautiful place?’ Now I say to you: Gracias! Gracias! Gracias!”

Nearly 100 attended the ribbon-cutting, which was seven years in the making.

John McCarron

Posted in Housing, Lending, Humboldt Park, Logan Square


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