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Bickerdike plans to expand service area, to develop more eTOD

Published on Nov. 15, 2021 by Steven Vance

Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation, founded in 1967 to develop and maintain permanently affordable housing, will ask its membership to vote on whether to expand its service area. Bickerdike’s board already approved a massive geographic expansion in June, but members will vote in December.

Bickerdike mostly operates in Humboldt Park and West Town, with dozens of houses and buildings visible along the Bloomingdale Trail. The non-profit organization is most recently known for building the Emmett Street Apartments, an all-affordable transit-oriented development on formerly city-owned land next to the Logan Square Blue Line station, which is connected to a 24-hour subway line.

A map shows Bickerdike’s current service area in green and the proposed expansion area in blue. CTA stations and lines are also shown.

Bickerdike also owns and operates 100s of apartments in vintage apartment buildings, erected before the organization was founded. And it built new for-rent townhouses in the 1980s. Additionally, Bickerdike worked with the City of Chicago to develop single-detached houses in the 2000s that are permanently affordable; they were part of the New Homes for Chicago program, and are placed in the Chicago Community Land Trust with covenants that impose a maximum resale price.

One of Bickerdike’s townhouse properties, in Humboldt Park on Humboldt Boulevard. A new tile mosaic was installed in 2020. Photo by Eric Allix Rogers.

Why expand

Bickerdike president Joy Aruguete said in a livestreamed presentation on October 29, 2021, that they’ll no longer have to turn down invitations and collaborations to develop land outside of their existing service area.

She also said, that expanding the service area will allow Bickerdike to “build stronger membership and development base to inform and participate in our community-driven development, and respond to the unmet need for community-based affordable housing development outside our current area.”

In other words, Bickerdike will be able to acquire, develop, and maintain new and existing affordable housing across more of Chicago. Which, in turn, supports their mission of mitigating the effects of gentrification and displacement as those patterns push into areas further west and north of their current service area.

Aruguete also pointed out that the expansion area includes so many more CTA ‘L’ stations, and thus more opportunities to build affordable housing near train stations, in what is being called “equitable Transit-Oriented Development”, defined by the City of Chicago below:

Equitable TOD (eTOD) is development that enables all people regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age, gender, immigration status or ability to experience the benefits of dense, mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development near transit hubs. eTOD elevates and prioritizes investments and policies that close the socioeconomic gaps between neighborhoods that are predominately people of color and those that are majority white.
eTOD projects and processes elevate community voice in decision making processes and in realizing community-focused benefits such as affordable housing, public health, strong local businesses, and environmental sustainability, to name a few. When centered on racial inclusion and community wealth building, eTOD can be a driver of positive transformation for more vibrant, prosperous, and resilient neighborhoods connected to opportunities throughout the city and region.

I believe this will be a benefit to the city, because Bickerdike has a lot of experience in developing new construction and renovating existing housing and using various funding sources. Land prices in their current service area have risen drastically, making it harder to acquire property. In some directions of the expansion, there are many opportunities to purchase or acquire vacant land in walking distance to ‘L’ stations.

Those opportunities largely lie in areas where Bickerdike could get out ahead of gentrification as they did earlier in their existence.

While in other directions, generally in the north part of the existing service area and north from there, land and property prices are already high — Bickerdike may be able to take over ownership or maintenance of properties that existing owners are struggling to maintain and improve. Bickerdike could also partner with organizations that own land in order to build developments with new affordable housing that supports the mission of the partner organization. (Think budding community land trusts that have limited development experience.)

Note: I am a member of Bickerdike. I have also served as an invited external community member on one of their buildings’ advisory groups. I will be able to vote in December.


Bickerdike plans to expand service area, to develop more eTOD was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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