Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter

Update: The ordinance was adopted at the December 12, 2018, City Council meeting and the Pilot Areas are now in our database. When you look up an address the Snapshot will notify you if it’s in a Pilot Area.

This month Mayor Emanuel proposed two new ARO Pilot Areas covering Pilsen and Little Village, respectively. The Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) Pilot Areas program changes some of the ARO rules based on neighborhood-specific policies. Per the ARO, developers of multi-family housing who are building 10 or more units and receive a zoning change, TIF assistance, or city-owned land, must create some affordable units. In Pilot Areas, the amount they create is increased and the option to pay an in lieu fee is eliminated.

A difference in these new Pilot Areas is that the in lieu fee option is still available, but the pricing is updated.

Cityscape Pro members will be advised if a location they look up on Address Snapshot is in any of the ARO Pilot Areas (including the two proposed ones). If you don’t have a Pro membership, there’s a free trial, or consider purchasing Pro-level access to a single Address Snapshot report.

The two Pilot Areas (here’s the ordinance):

  • Pilsen — This Pilot Area “escapes” Pilsen and comes up to the West Loop area to envelop some parcels north of the Eisenhower Expressway. One of those parcels was approved recently for redevelopment by Tandem Partners, but since their approval will predate adoption, Tandem doesn’t have to comply with the revised rules. The area also envelops a lot of Little Italy, some of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) campus, Roosevelt Square, and ABLA Brooks Homes. The in lieu fee here is $178,469 per unit.
Map showing a portion of the proposed Pilsen ARO Pilot Area that isn’t in Pilsen.
  • Little Village— This proposed ARO Pilot Area’s boundary is more straightforward, as it is coterminous with the majority of the South Lawndale community area boundary. The in lieu fee here is $101,388.
Map showing where the proposed Little Village ARO Pilot Area doesn’t fully overlap the South Lawndale community area boundary (between the blue and gray lines).

Our pre-development and zoning services partner MAP Strategies can provide you with more information about the details of the ARO. Their seminar is geared towards developers and architects who need to know the regulations and calculations.

Fall 2018 changes to the ARO Pilot Areas was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

This would put $3.7 million into debt service and pension funds

Update: Terminated by City Council on December 12, 2018

Mayor Emanuel plans to terminate early five TIF districts. Upon termination, any cash still in the TIF fund would be distributed amongst all local authorities bodies including Cook County, the Chicago Public Library, and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District).

The Chicago City Council must approve the early terminations.

Maps of four of the five TIF districts, left to right: Ravenswood Corridor and Weed/Fremont, Cermak/Calumet and Drexel Boulevard
  • Read/Dunning
    This TIF district was originally going to expire in 2015, but was extended to 2027 that year. The redevelopment of parts of the Chicago-Read Mental Health Center property has been “successfully achieved”.
    Currently has a ~$5,000 balance; Chicago will receive ~$1,100
  • Ravenswood Corridor
    This is the youngest TIF district of the group, established in 2008, and would be terminated “due to inactivity” (the goal was to “facilitate the rehab and development of high-tech and light industrial employers”).
    Currently has a ~$1.4 million balance; Chicago will receive ~$322,000
  • Weed/Fremont
    This district is only the size of one property, which has been redeveloped into a car dealer; thus, there’s no more redevelopment activity left to fund.
    Currently has a ~$933,000 balance; Chicago will receive ~$215,000
  • Calumet/Cermak
    Site of the former R.R. Donnelly & Sons printing plant, which has been converted to a data center; other redevelopments are the Marriott Marquis, a residential building, and a parking garage.
    Currently has a ~$13.5 million balance; Chicago will receive ~$3.1m
  • Drexel Boulevard
    This TIF district “successfully” achieved the goal of redeveloping vacant land into mixed-income housing.
    Currently has a $314,000 balance; Chicago will receive ~$72,000

The total “windfall” to the City of Chicago from the five early-terminated TIF districts, to be absorbed into the city’s debt service and pension funds, will be about about $3.71 million.

Map of the Read/Dunning TIF district on Chicago’s northwest side.

Emanuel closing five TIF districts early was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Read previous posts to learn why you should support coach houses and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

This list will be updated as needed. Last updated 12/14/18, 12:27. Links are provided to posts or campaign websites where the candidate’s support is indicated.

  • 1st Ward: Daniel LaSpata (“advocate for permitting coach houses and other ADUs that preserve naturally affordable housing and increase revenue for home owners”)
  • 26th Ward: David Herrera (told me via email)
  • 31st Ward: Colin Bird-Martinez (told me via email)
  • 33rd Ward: Katie Sieracki (“gives residents, homeowners, and families choices and helps maintain a stock of affordable housing”), Deb Mell (incumbent, told via chief of staff; Mell voted against the 5-year housing plan because of the lack of Just Cause Eviction and changes to the ARO)
  • 35th Ward: Amanda Yu Dieterich (“rental coach houses”)
  • 40th Ward: Ugo Okere (“legalization of Accessory Dwelling Units”)
  • 47th Ward: Eileen Dordek (“granny flats”), Michael Negron (“granny flats”)
  • Chicago mayor: Paul Vallas (175,000 garden units are possible)
Two coach houses side-by-side in Humboldt Park (there’s a third one on the same block north of here).

These are the 2019 candidates who support legalizing ADUs in Chicago was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Chicago may adopt a pro-ADU policy

Next 5-year housing plan says City should permit coach houses

Coach houses, of which there are 1,000–2,000 in Chicago (based on our shaky counting method), are a type of natural affordable housing and a hidden density in many of our inner neighborhoods. They’re cheaper to rent because they’re older and smaller than flats, and they don’t affect the visual character of a block.

Can someone get in touch with Bob Vila to see if he will help support legalizing coach houses in Chicago? Vila renovated a coach house on his show, “Home Again”, which aired May 20, 1991. Watch the episode in full.

They’re also illegal to build in Chicago. Current ones can remain, but the city’s zoning code “errs” on the side of not preserving them. (Don’t rent a coach house you own out for a year and code says you can’t rent it out again.)

In the next 5-year housing plan, Mayor Emanuel has proposed permitting coach houses and other Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU).

That should be big news to homeowners, renters, architects, and contractors.

Why should City electeds re-allow coach houses and ADUs?

Accessory dwelling units have a quintuple bottom line:

  • Increase the supply of affordable housing, and can act as a stepping stone for new residents before they move to a larger apartment or buy a property of their own
  • Generate income for homeowners (this could also happen now with minor adjustments to the zoning map so people can build out basement units)
  • Support aging in place — ADUs and Junior ADUs give families flexibility to share property and living spaces with extended family members
  • Create new work for small and local architects and contractors
  • Boost local business support by restoring a neighborhood’s historical density

Once City Council adopts the next 5-year housing plan (which could happen this month or next) the new Chicago Department of Housing or an alder or two will have to introduce legislation that legalizes and regulates ADUs.

Why should the public support ADUs?

Some people already do! Over the last several months Chicago Cityscape has been collecting responses from people using this form to understand why coach houses are integral to supporting diversity in housing stock and housing prices in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

We were happy coach house dwellers for 5 years, and offsetting the alley's exquisite summer aromas was the fact the cheaper rent allowed us to save for a down payment for a mortgage. @chibuildings

 — @carterobrien

People wrote to us about their personal coach house living experience:

  • “When I moved back to Chicago after spending a year in another city, I rented a small room in a rear coach house in Bucktown for $300 per month. As an unemployed person seeking work, this was the most ideal arrangement I could be in while reentering the workforce and readjusting to life in Chicago.”
  • “My wife and I are Chicago property owners since 2004. We have four kids. I am a real estate broker and my wife is a hospital nursing director. We lived in a coach house unit in 2003 while saving for a condo. We paid $825.00 in rent. There was a two-flat in front and the coach house was two units.”
  • “We own a two-flat in Logan square with a concrete pad in the back. We are holding off on building a garage because we’d really like to put a coach house above the garage.”

And they wrote us about why they would like to build an ADU:

  • “To provide more low-density housing in my neighborhood while also having the potential to improve my property and make additional income.”
  • “We would love to build a coach house unit on our single family house property in Lincoln Square. With a large family it would allow us extra income, guest quarters, or a separate space for a nanny. We have a 30'x150' lot [44% larger than a standard city lot] with lots of space for an extra residential unit. Downzoning and two and three-flat deconversions have hurt the socioeconomic diversity of Lincoln Square. Coach houses would allow larger families use of the main house and affordable rentals in the coach house on a single city lot. I think it’s ridiculous to legally build a double-lot single-family house that three or four people barely live in but not possible to build a studio apartment over my garage.”
  • “Extra income and increasing housing options in the neighborhood. We may use it if our parents move in when they get older.”

Tell your alder you support restoring gentle density in your neighborhood by allowing homeowners to build income-generating affordable housing on their properties. Look up your alder’s name using Address Snapshot.

Which officials and candidates support ADUs?

The list has moved to its own post.

Chicago may adopt a pro-ADU policy was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Emanuel supports legalizing coach houses

This 👏🏿 is 👍🏼 a 🙌🏽 great 👐🏻 idea

One of the most popular articles on the Chicago Cityscape blog was when I described the process during which rear houses and coach houses (an apartment above a garage) became banned in Chicago.

A coach house in Chicago is easily identifiable by windows above a garage, like this one in Hyde Park. Photo by Curtis Locke.

Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proposed legalizing new Accessory Dwelling Units (the broad category that includes coach and rear houses) in the upcoming Five Year Housing Plan for 2019–2023.

The City will identify options to leverage building codes or zoning to create affordability through accessory dwelling units (ADU), which is an additional housing unit added to an existing property such as basement or attic conversions, “in-law” apartment units, garage or coach house conversions, or new construction. ADUs can offer relatively affordable housing for tenants and can help moderate-income families become homeowners with the additional income. The permitting for an ADU could also be contingent on affordability requirements for renters. The City will work with partners to explore cost-effective, safe strategies or policy adjustments to increase this supply of housing, including new mandated and natural occurring affordable units.

The plan was introduced to City Council on November 14, 2018.

It’s really hard to count these as there’s no database. One method I created estimated there are between 1,000 and 2,000 coach and rear houses in Chicago.

The last time anyone tried to legalize ADUs was in 2003

Using the data and criteria in the housing study I created for 47th Ward aldermanic candidates, there could about 3,600 new accessory dwelling units. I purposefully devised a conservative criteria of “One ADU is allowed at each detached single-family house” to show that even with a limited regulation, thousands of new, mostly affordable homes could be built.

The last time anyone tried to legalize ADUs in Chicago was Metropolitan Planning Council’s draft legislation, written before the last zoning rewrite (adopted in 2004). Imagine how much gentle density we could have restored to our neighborhoods if there wasn’t a multi-decade gap in the ADUs’ legality.

MPC’s draft legislation would have been too restrictive, specifying that ADUs would only be allowed on lots that are at least 30 feet wide and 150 feet deep (4,500 square feet). But at least it doesn’t suggest homeowners should also find space for a new parking space to serve the new home.

There are ~78,286 house lots in current (October 2018) RS zoning districts that meet that criteria, whereas there are ~187,735 house lots in the same zoning districts that have a lot area smaller than 4,500 s.f.

The State of California has a group of statewide ADU laws, allowing them in all single-family and multi-family areas. The same group also allows “junior accessory dwelling units”, or JADUs, which are completely enclosed within the primary residence. I referred to these as “lock off units” in a post, and they’re essentially mini apartments in a single-family house that have separate entrance to the outside. They also exist inside condos and have a separate entrance to the corridor. The California JADU requires a kitchenette but disallows gas and 220 volt electrical services. It doesn’t require a bathroom.

Emanuel supports legalizing coach houses was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eighteen Chicago alders are ready to make it easier for homeowners to add units to their vintage houses. Sort of.

Currently, owners of houses that are 50 years or older who want to add one dwelling unit don’t have add a car parking space. Part of the reason is that there’s most likely not any room for more parking on the lot, and building new parking spaces would eat into the backyard space.

A lot of houses in Humboldt Park could legally have new units. New parking spaces are currently required if two new units are built. A proposed law would require new parking spaces if six or more units are built.

If the same owner is going to add two dwelling units, then they have to add one car parking space.

A proposed ordinance (O2018–8004) would raise that threshold from two to six, meaning that an owner would have to comply with parking regulations if they’re adding six dwelling units to the property.

It’s a good idea to reduce homeowner’s parking requirements when people are trying to make an extra buck by providing some new affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

But, those alders need to undo the downzones of our neighborhoods that make it illegal to add one or two dwelling units.

Adding units to your house? You may not have to build more parking was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We’ve updated our vast maps database to make changes to 13 TIF districts in the Chicago Cityscape TIF districts layer.

TIF district changes — Added/Updated

The following three TIF districts were added or updated:

  • Lake Calumet— Updated. The boundaries were changed to accommodate part of the new 116th/Avenue O TIF district (the original area has been saved as a different map).
  • 95th/Western — Updated. Expired July 13, 2018, and the name has been changed to include the word “expired” [1]. However, Mayor Emanuel has proposed extending the duration by 13 years (see below).
  • 116th/Avenue O— Added. This TIF district was approved by City Council on October 31, 2018.

TIF district changes — Proposed

These two TIF districts are proposed.

  • Cortland/Clybourn — Added as proposed. This is a proposed boundary for a new TIF district that would cover a lot of Sterling Bay’s Lincoln Yards development around the former Finkl Steel site and the city’s soon-to-be-former Fleet & Facility Maintenance (2FM) warehouse. Boundary are subject to change prior to adoption. Adoption will require the truncation of the North Branch (North) and North Branch (South) TIF districts.
  • Roosevelt/Clark — Added as proposed. This is a proposed boundary for a new TIF district that would cover all of Related Midwest’s 62-acre site as well as Southbank and Riverline. Adoption will require the truncation of the River South TIF district. Unofficial map.

If you were subscribing to updates to any of the updated TIF districts, please re-subscribe as some of their map IDs have changed to preserve different versions of each map.

TIF district changes —Proposed for early termination

We are also watching Mayor Emanuel’s proposal to terminate five TIF districts early and will update our maps when the City Council approves that.

Calumet/Cermak and Drexel Boulevard are two TIF districts that Mayor Emanuel has proposed terminating early.

TIF district changes — Proposed for extension

The Illinois House and Senate approved an extension for the following four TIF districts in Chicago by 13 years, to 2032 to 2034, depending.


[1] We have maps of other expired TIF districts in Chicago that we can offer you upon request. These, that expired between 2015–2017, were moved to a different map layer for storage and they don’t appear in Maps Explorer.

Summary of fall 2018 TIF district changes was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

There are two design competitions this winter that have similar goals of spurring new ideas about redeveloping the missing middle — that is, small, multi-unit apartment buildings which are extremely common in Chicago, but aren’t being replenished — and creating a new affordable housing building typology.

The Illinois chapter of Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) has organized Fill the Housing Gap: A Missing Middle Design competition. If you want to participate, you’ve got to register by the end of day tomorrow, Friday, 11/30 (sorry for the late notice).

Applicants must propose a “housing solution that would achieve medium-density yields while providing high-quality, cost-effective, marketable options between the scales of single-family homes and mid-rise apartments” for one of three undeveloped sites in Illinois:

  1. Chicago at 2567 W Montrose Ave (a building here was demolished in 2010) across the river from Horner Park
  2. Lake Bluff at 615–617 Sheridan Rd
  3. Peoria at 513 W Main St

Why is the competition necessary? CNU lays it out: “[Two-to-four flats] serve as the cornerstone of many Chicago blocks, but the city is losing these types at a rapid pace as they are converted to single family homes”. (We document this phenomenon on our Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook several times a week.)

Entrants will have to submit a pro forma and there’s a free webinar to learn how to create a pro forma on 12/5/2018.

The other competition is Disruptive Design. The charge is to design a single-family house or two-flat that can be constructed for $200,000 or $300,000, respectively. The winning design will be built on two vacant lots in Bronzeville and West Humboldt Park. Registration starts December 1, 2018, and ends January 31, 2019. It requires an essay responding to specific questions in the design brief and one visual. The five entrants who are shortlisted after Phase 1 will be told the vacant lot addresses to design for in Phase 2.

With that information, the entrants must design a contextual house and submit floor plans and elevation drawings. After Phase 2, community meetings will be organized so residents can review the final five designs.

Anjulie Rao, editor of AIA Chicago magazine and one of the organizers, said the goal is to “create new possibilities for affordable housing” that “contribute to neighborhood connectivity”. She continued, “We want buildings that respect the existing neighborhood and create neighborliness.”

What does that mean?

You know when you see a new house pop up and it’s like a sore thumb; neighbors cringe and talk quietly amongst themselves about getting pushed out by wealth. Tension is created through design; in Disruptive Design, we’re implementing systems to create transparency in the process so people who already live in these neighborhoods are a part of the process. There’s nothing more dividing than seeing a vacant lot become a million dollar home and no one who lives on the block knows how it came to be.

Disruptive Design is co-organized by AIA Chicago and several foundations and NGOs, and funded by Related Midwest (which will also develop the winning design), Freddie Mac, and Polk Bros. Foundation, a Chicago-based organization.

What are your Chicago housing design ideas? was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Founded on urban planning policies & ideals

I get this question occasionally from brokers who use Realist or connectMLS. Chicago Cityscape provides some of the same data about Chicago and Cook County properties as those two websites. But there’s a lot that sets Chicago Cityscape apart from those websites.

Chicago Cityscape isn’t just a “database of databases”. It’s a platform for learning about properties and neighborhoods, presented to take into account links to government policies, local housing plans, homeownership access programs, financial incentives, historical information, and the boundaries of new proposals being deliberated at public meetings.

There’s certainly some overlap: Users can see property ownership and taxes and basic property details on Chicago Cityscape and the MRED services.

Michael Anguiano, a multi-family broker with Monarch Realty Partners, said, “The MLS is one of the richest data sets available. You have transaction data for multiple asset types that spans decades. Cityscape is an excellent companion to the MLS to refine search. Cityscape is also great for diving into individual properties to find data (permits, neighborhood, etc.) that is not available on MLS.”

Here’s a short list of what makes Chicago Cityscape a more efficient and comprehensive system on which to learn about any given lot, address, or building in Chicago and Cook County:

And of course there’s Incentives Checker, which lists up to 19 financial & development incentives for all property lookups in Chicago and Cook County.

A given property’s value is based on the collective value of its surroundings. Chicago Cityscape helps you understand that value by sharing information about the past, present, and future — on-site or nearby.

Anyone can quickly gain insight on current and proposed developments near a prospective property with Address Snapshot.

Chicago Cityscape offers a lot of information (and the above list doesn’t explain everything), and it might be difficult to learn about all of our offerings and take advantage of it all. That’s why there’s no risk to try out Cityscape Pro for 30 days and email, phone, and in-person support.

What sets Cityscape apart from other sites was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The City of Chicago has sold or will sell two former Chicago Public School buildings that were closed in 2013 to the Single Room Housing Assistance Corporation (SRHAC).

Former Delano/Melody school (left); former Henson school (right)

The former Delano/Melody Elementary School in West Garfield Park, a block from the Pulaski Blue Line station at 412 S Keeler Ave, was sold last month for $80,000. And the former Henson Elementary School at 1306 S Avers Ave in North Lawndale will sell for $55,000 next month.

From the sale legislation, “SRHAC’s proposed plan is to redevelop the former school [properties] with 80 units [each] of affordable housing for low and very low wage earners, service veterans, single mothers and individuals suffering from physical disabilities and chronic illness and to allow community access to space within the building for community programs”.

Like the other school building sales, a covenant forbidding their use as K-12 charter schools will be attached.

City selling former CPS schools for new affordable housing was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

'1909' is a free, weekly newsletter with neighborhood development news, events, and original analysis.

Subscribe to '1909'

* indicates required
Your work

Other ways to stay updated

About '1909'

'1909' brings you Chicago neighborhood development news and events every week.

1909 was the year that Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett published the Plan of Chicago that forever changed the cityscape. The cityscape changes everyday and we track how and where on Chicago Cityscape.

Other ways to stay updated

Are you a reporter?

We give Chicago-based reporters who write about land use, zoning, housing, property development, and urban planning a free Pro membership and ask that you attribute and link to Chicago Cityscape when data presented on our website has helped you enhance a story.

Request a free membership

'1909' options

Read previous issues of '1909'

Sign up with the alternative form

Subscribe with RSS

Change your preferences

If you're already subscribed you can change your preferences including name, email, and interests, using the link at the bottom of every issue

Submit your events

Send us your news and event suggestions to be considered for inclusion in '1909'.

Fill out my online form.
Use Wufoo templates to make your own HTML forms.