Chicago Cityscape's '1909' newsletter

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Property data updated for 2016 tax year

Cityscape Pro members can analyze or download in bulk

Many of our Pro members use Chicago Cityscape to quickly gather historical and current property assessments and tax bills for one property at a time using Address Snapshot, or in bulk. For example, you can download a map or spreadsheet of the property assessments and tax bills for all the parcels in an entire community area or within a Personal Place you’ve drawn yourself.

Look up an address on Address Snapshot and you’ll get this information for all the properties within view.

You can even specify which property class you want to export: Apartment buildings of a certain size, commercial condos, or something else.

All of our Cook County property data is now current for the 2016 property tax year.

Cityscape Pro members can use our massive Cook County properties data set to find parcels of a specific property class in a specific area, and then download it to Excel or GIS, with property manager names and tax history attached.

Our dataset has been updated to include thousands more properties (mostly condos, which were harder to deal with in the past), and with tax data from 2016. Most of the 1,879,504 parcels and condos in this dataset have property tax data going back to 2009.

We will add 2017 tax data after the second installment bill comes out in the middle of 2018.

Look up an address now — or start a free trial

Our handmade dataset is the only source for this combined information:

  • assessments
  • tax bills
  • location within Cook County, including a condo unit number (if you purchase the download, it’s GIS-ready)
  • classification
  • whether or not the property owner has appealed
  • what exemptions the property has received
  • age and size (residential only)

You can get access to this information through multiple interfaces on Chicago Cityscape, or you can download the entire dataset from our Data Store. As always, if you have a question about Pro membership, or this data, please contact us.

Start a free trial of Cityscape Pro — no credit card needed.


Property data updated for 2016 tax year was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


A four-story glass and panel structure is planned for 1111 W. Addison. Image: Hirsch MPG.

Months after Wrigleyville residents and visitors said their final goodbyes to the neighborhood’s Taco Bell, we now have a clearer look at the retail development planned for the coveted Addison Street site. Purchased last July by West Addison Development, the property is just one of several major sites being redeveloped near Wrigley Field.

Plans for 1111 W. Addison St. shared on 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney’s website indicate that the upcoming four-story commercial development will be anchored by the California-based Planet Granite rock climbing gym chain with up to three additional retail spaces on the ground level. It is not yet clear if Taco Bell will return to the location.

To proceed as planned, the new development will require a zoning change from the existing B3-2 designation to B3-3. A Chicago Cityscape search for a proposed zoning change ordinance related to the site did not return any relevant results, suggesting that the zoning ordinance has yet to be introduced to the Chicago City Council by Alderman Tunney.

A previous design iteration for 1111 W. Addison. Image: Mid-America Urban.

Drawings from the local architecture and planning firm Hirsch MPG reveal a boxy, contemporary glass-and-panel construction with offset layers — a design which provides outdoor terrace areas on each level. A previous iteration of the plan sought a two-story development with a more traditional masonry facade and long rooftop deck area.

Dimensions listed in the proposal show that the upcoming 1111 W. Addison will stand at a maximum height of 65 feet and will feature more than 56,000 square feet of commercial space over four levels. Taking advantage of its proximity to the Addison Red Line station, the development will utilize the transit-oriented development ordinance to reduce its minimum parking requirement by half, providing just 25 off-street vehicle parking spaces. Elevations also show parking for up to 52 bicycles on site.

The new plan comes during a period of dramatic change for the Wrigleyville area. Other major new developments recently completed or underway include Wrigley Field’s new Park at Wrigley plaza and shops, the Hotel Zachary on Clark Street, and the major mixed-used Addison & Clark project which is slated to feature a bowling alley, various food and beverage offerings, rental apartments, and hundreds of parking spaces.

Renderings by Hirsch MPG

Four-story retail development planned for former Wrigleyville Taco Bell site was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


A rendering of Full Circle Communities’s original proposal for 100 apartments on top of ground-floor retail at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., released in January 2017. The developer has not yet released renderings or site plans of their newest plan, which would only include 75 apartments.

The developer proposing a seven-story mixed-income apartment complex in the heart of Jefferson Park will take another swing at applying for state tax credits this year, this time with 25 fewer units than originally planned, the group announced this week.

Full Circle Communities will ask the Illinois Housing Development Authority to help fund a seven-story building, about the same height as the 100-unit complex originally proposed last January. But the newer plan envisions a “smaller overall footprint” at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., according to Ald. John Arena (45th), a longtime backer of the development.

With a price tag of $26 million, the revised plan calls for 15 market-rate apartments, with the rest targeted to residents making between 30 and 60 percent of area median income, according to the developer. Thirty units would be available to people with Chicago Housing Authority vouchers.

Blueprints include five studio apartments, 18 one-bedroom apartments, 18 two-beds and 38 three-beds, Arena wrote in a Tuesday Twitter thread. Military veterans would still be prioritized in lease applications, and 15 units would be designed specifically for wheelchair-users.

The apartments would sit atop 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and have 40 parking spaces.

Full Circle Communities CEO Joshua Wilmoth wrote in a statement Thursday that the revisions “make this a significantly stronger application for the state.”

Arena also tweeted Tuesday that the move was made “in response to community feedback.”

“By reducing the number of three-bedroom units, we can further ensure the development’s minimal impact on our local schools and area traffic,” Arena wrote.

The proposal drew an intense backlash from neighbors when it was unveiled last year, with multiple speakers at a February community meeting airing fears that an influx of low-income residents could unleash crime and sink surrounding property values.

But since then, neighborhood groups like Northwest Side Unite and the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association have targeted their criticism on the building’s height and its potential to worsen overcrowding at nearby elementary schools.

Last May, the City Council approved a zoning change allowing for LSC Development to demolish the vacant food distribution center at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. and build a five-story storage warehouse on half the property.

The city has granted LSC a demolition permit for the existing building, and construction on the storage facility is set to get underway this spring, according to Arena.

Pending another vote by the City Council, the apartment complex would be built on the other half of the property.

Last September, the Illinois Housing Development Authority denied Full Circle Community’s request for state tax credits, a key link in the patchwork of funding they would need for to move the plan forward.

But the developer feels confident that their second draft has a better chance to make the cut this year, Wilmoth wrote in a statement.

“Full Circle Communities remains committed to building a mixed-income, mixed-use green transit oriented development focused on people with disabilities, veterans and working families,” Wilmoth added.


Jefferson Park mixed-income apartments plan downsized to 75 units was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Last night at a meetup, staffers from the Cook County Bureau of Technology demonstrated some of the maps and datasets they have in Cook Central. Their database includes 10 snapshots of aerial imagery from 1998 to 2016. The photos are taken from planes, not satellites, so the quality is better.

There’s no time like the present to add historical aerial photography of Cook County to Chicago Cityscape.

Look up any address in Cook County and click the “Show imagery” button below the map to see what used to be at and around the property you’re interested in purchasing or developing.

If you can’t see the “Show imagery” button, or the imagery doesn’t appear after you click it, I recommend clearing your cache or press Shift + reload.

The latest photography, from 2016, will appear. You can switch to 1998, 2003, 2009, and 2013 in the layer switcher on the map.

The recent and historical imagery is very sharp, and clearer than our current aerial/satellite image provider and clearer than Google Earth. The earliest year that Google Earth has is 1999, and it’s muddy compared to Cook County’s 1998 imagery.

These three images show the intersection of North/Clybourn; from left to right (top to bottom in email): Google Earth 1999, Cook 1998, Cook 2016.

The historical aerial imagery is currently available on Address Snapshot, our most used feature, and will be added to other maps very soon.

Neighborhood news

I’d like to congratulate the former journalists at DNAinfo (which was shut down abruptly last year) who founded a new reporting organization called Block Club Chicago for reaching 456% of their fundraising goal on Kickstarter within two days. There are still 27 days left to back them.

The National Fair Housing Alliance has said they filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and other companies alleging that the companies don’t maintain properties they own in Black and Latino neighborhoods as well as they maintain properties in white neighborhoods.

Ten buildings or groups of buildings in Cook County joined the National Register of Historic Places last year, including the Lawson House YMCA on Chicago Avenue in Chicago, which is undergoing renovation and conversion away from an SRO. (The X Radio)

The displacement map created by the Institute of Housing Studies is being used by various neighborhood-based organizations. In the Albany Park-based example, “The tool allows nonprofit developers to see the emerging hot spots and buy up property while it is still affordable.” (IHS’s blog and Streetsblog)


View historical aerial imagery when you look up an address in Cook County 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 is accepting bids to redevelop two city-owned sites, in McKinley Park and East Garfield Park. The city is participating in the global “Reinventing Cities” initiative from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, an organization led by cities to reduce greenhouse gases.

After reading these summaries, tell us what you would you propose.

McKinley Park

Looking west along Pershing Road (also known as 39th Street). Photo by Eric Allix Rogers, published in The Chicago Dispatch

The McKinley Park site includes two industrial buildings that are part of the historic Central Manufacturing District and were built for the Army in 1918, and eventually used by many well-known national brands.

Each building has over 570,000 square feet. A third building is not part of the RFP as the city will continue using it for storage.

Get an Address Snapshot for each of the buildings:

The city posted a design prompt and rules for the CMD buildings:

While the City’s preference is for redevelopment of the entire site, bidders may also propose to reactivate only one or both of the historic six-story buildings. Proposals should enhance opportunities for Chicago‘s workforce and for nearby residential communities. The project should aspire to be carbon-neutral, while increasing the site’s resilience to water events. The overall design of the project should…provide publicly accessible spaces...

East Garfield Park

The second site is a group of 14 vacant parcels in East Garfield Park across from the John Marshall Metro High School. The parcels are already zoned for a good medium density, at C1–3, but the city is open to proposals that change the zoning classification — and through the normal channels.

The 14 vacant parcels are outlined in blue. The CTA Kedzie Blue Line station is about 1/3 mile south, and the Kedzie Green Line station is just a little further than 1/3 mile north.

One of the parcels is close enough to qualify for the TOD ordinance, making it possible to propose a multi-family development with a wider range of apartment sizes and a few more units than C1–3 allows.

The parcels, vacant since before 1988 (see these historic aerials), are in a neighborhood called Fifth City (map).

According to this film voiced by Oprah Winfrey created by the Institute of Cultural Affairs, the neighborhood had transformed from “a neglected ghetto into a reformulated community” by 1983 after the ICA started a 40-year plan in 1963. (It’s a great video; it also shows former Mayor Harold Washington speaking at a ribbon cutting for a car repair shop, it explains “Fifth City” etymology, and shows how a community invested in itself.)

The north East Garfield Park site; Marshall High School, along Kedzie Avenue, is on the left.

There are recent investments: The Hatchery, a large shared kitchen for entrepreneurs, is under construction three blocks north of the site. The high school, known for its winning basketball teams, also expanded its outdoor athletic facilities in 2010 with a “campus park” shared with Faraday elementary school next door.

Sustainability is a theme for this site’s design prompt and rules, also:

While the City’s preference is for redevelopment of both corner lots for this site, bidders may also propose to reactivate only one of the corner lots. Bidders will be encouraged to suggest a typology of multi-family housing that will compliment these exciting projects and programs and become a model for carbon-neutral, sustainable, and resilient redevelopment of disinvested neighborhoods.

What would you propose at each of the sites?

If you need help figuring out what you can build, we’ve partnered with MAP Strategies and created a new zoning assessment service.


Two city-owned sites are part of a global development competition was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


by AJ LaTrace

Another proposed development is looking to get in on the Milwaukee Avenue construction boom, but this time, a proposed four-story residential building could rise over residential Rockwell Street near the Congress Theater. The proposal comes from the Logan Square-based Market Trade with PMPC Architects handling project design duties.

Rendering of the proposed development, in the foreground, by PMP Architects.

The neighborhood group Greater Goethe Neighborhood Association (map) first shared the developer’s plans on its Facebook page in December. As proposed, the developer seeks a zoning change from C1–1 to B2–3 to erect a four-story, four-unit condo building at 2138 N. Rockwell Street.

The new building would replace a two-unit house. The zoning change is necessary to allow four units.

The neighborhood group also shared its zoning committee’s response to the proposal where a few issues were highlighted, such as a lack of greenspace in the plan, the height of the proposed building, and garbage logistics.

Prashanth Mahakali of PMPC Architects tells Chicago Cityscape that the development team plans to address the issues presented by GGNA, but also noted that the Rockwell property is a “challenging lot”. A second public meeting to discuss the plan was held on January 8.

The developer and GGNA didn’t respond to request for comment.


4-flat in Logan Square needs a zoning change to replace a 2-flat was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Full story: Take a walk through an old Hyde Park graystone being retrofitted for “Passivhaus” certification

How can this energy efficiency standard become as common in Chicago as the kind of house it’s being applied to?

Earlier this month I toured what will most likely become the first Passivhaus Institut-certified building in Illinois. The extremely airtight, single-family house is for sale in Hyde Park, across from the University of Chicago dormitory designed by Studio Gang.

The graystone at 5485 S. Ellis Ave., with the blue sign in front, is at the end of four identical row houses.

Being a “passive house” means it will use less energy per household than all of you reading this article — unless you also live in a passive house. Energy efficient houses don’t really appear like they’re going to be extremely energy efficient, and since the one at 5485 S. Ellis Ave. is a retrofit of a 134-year-old row house, it won’t look that way at all.

Mike Conners bought the house in 2015 and has been renovating it since then. He’s renovated other houses in Kenwood and Hyde Park, after spending most of his career as a financial investor. Conners is working with architect Richard Kasemsarn, head of his own firm and a professor at the School of the Art Institute at Chicago, to design the retrofit.

Passivhaus Institut is a German organization that educates contractors and property developers about the PH standard they’ve developed, and trains companies on how to measure and certify buildings. Conners said that PHI “suggests a ninety percent reduction in build energy demand should be expected all else being equal versus existing” use.

During the tour it became easy to see how this house will, as projected, use less than $2 worth of electricity, to heat and cool the house, per day. (The house will only have a natural gas line hookup to power a small emergency generator.)

As part of the passive house standard’s focus on reducing building-related energy loss, the walls of the Ellis house were enlarged on both the interior and exterior to add insulation. Insulation isn’t enough, though: “thermal bridging” is eliminated. Hot and cold can be transferred through wall studs and window mullions and decimate a building’s energy peformance.

When you get up close to the exterior of the house you’ll notice that the graystone’s masonry exterior has been covered in fiber cement siding, which protect exterior insulation and are made with cement and cellulose fibers.

There are seven climate controlled zones, each with its own silent Mitsubishi “mini split” that is also ducted to a Zehnder heat exchanger, which circulates air between the interior and exterior. Occupants can also set the mini split to cool the interior air in a zone.

Passive houses aren’t only about energy efficiency; the certification also dictates air quality and health standards. Numerous intake valves are embedded in every room of the house to remove air, filter it at the Zehnder, recovers the heat from stale air, transfers it to colder fresh air (pre-conditioning), and replacing the air through the mini splits.

Other health standards include using products that do not have toxic chemicals in them; paint cannot have volatile organic compounds (VOCs), for example. Preventing mold is another outcome of these systems.

The real energy efficiency of a house isn’t because of new or better appliances, however. Conners said, “Energy efficient appliances and technologies were very important to me then [in 2007, when he renovated the Nathanial Butler House] as was preservation, but I really knew little of building science, global warming, zero energy design. A reliance on energy efficient toys won’t get mankind where it needs to go. It’s the envelope — the building shell, a shell that lasts generations.” (Read more about the Ellis house’s envelope.)

The house has a two-story rear addition. The left and middle photos show how far it was extended compared to its siblings on the right. Right: Conners stands on the smaller of two rooftop decks, which overlooks a new University of Chicago dormitory designed by Studio Gang.

Conners showed me some of his research, which is part of the documentation needed to obtain Passivhaus Institut certification, that demonstrated the projected energy use and how that compared to another graystone in Hyde Park. The energy data for the comparison house was found on the MLS real estate listings database.

The other graystone had used nearly $6,000 in natural gas and electricity annually, and Conners projected $1,500 for the Ellis house. (Both figures include TVs and computers, a dishwasher, refrigerator, and laundry.)

The primary way that a passive house is tested to achieve certification is by using a blower door test. A special door is installed in place of the house’s front door and hermetically sealed. It pulls air out of the house and the test is conducted before and after the renovations to determine their effectiveness in reducing “leaks” in the building envelope.

Conners also plans to add photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, in view from the new rooftop deck he added. He predicts electricity from the panels will make the house “net zero”, meaning it generates more electricity than it consumes; it won’t be off the grid, however, unless he installs battery packs to supply electricity overnight and when the sun is behind clouds.

I had only planned to tour the future passive house for about an hour, but it was an impressive project, and one hour turned into two. A friend of mine who’s an architect came, too, and we both wanted to know a lot. I’m excited about the prospect that Chicago will have the first house in the state certified by Passivhaus Institut, as I hope it will encourage more home buyers and builders, as well as city officials, to adopt the standard.

Part of the excitement was seeing many of the components, like the fiber cement panels, for the first time. One of my favorite components are the dual-mode “tilt turn” windows that I’ve seen in houses all over Europe (the ones at the Ellis house also have triple panes).

It gets colder and hotter in Chicago than most of Germany. Illinois generates less energy from renewable resources from wind and solar than in Germany and other countries. However, Illinois has a higher potential than Germany to generate electricity through photovoltaics, and Lake Michigan has a high potential to generate power from the wind. That, coupled with building inefficiencies, should be the impetus we need to waste less of our coal and nuclear energy resources.

Mike Eliason, a passivhaus designer in Seattle with Patano Studio who has worked in the US and Germany, said that American energy codes are less strict than German ones, “so partially they were more predisposed” to adopt a passive house standard. He added that the KfW development bank, owned by the federal and state governments of Germany, provides economic incentives for energy efficiency through low-interest loans.

“Add in the push of the European Union energy performance of buildings directive towards nearly zero energy buildings — and an ecosystem has popped up that supports this”, Eliason said. That ecosystem includes over 900 certified components, but few are made in the United States. The Ellis house’s fiber cement boards came from Finland.

Left: My hand is a reference point to show the thickness of the fiber cement panels that cover the exterior. Right: Conners points to the Zehnder heat exchanger.
Left: This part of the rooftop will soon have enough photovoltaic solar panels to generate 2.5 kilowatt hours. Right: The all-electric kitchen under construction.

Increasing the availability of passive buildings is tough. Eliason thinks the biggest hurdle “to uptake is lack of knowledge and awareness coupled with low energy costs”. On a self-reporting database of passive house buildings, there are 46 certified buildings in the United States, when there are nearly 500 in Germany and more all over Europe. Passive House Institute in Germany said in 2016 there are over 60,000 passive buildings worldwide.

Chicago’s sustainable development policy requires a minimum of sustainable building elements in all planned developments, projects that receive $1 million or more in TIF funds, and affordable housing projects that receive certain grants. New construction projects must achieve 100 points on the city’s SDP matrix; Passive House certification nets only 70 points while LEED certification levels score higher. Two architects familiar with sustainability standards I talked to would have given Passive House certification a higher score, because of its focus on testing energy performance.

Can a smart architect & developer team design the next great three-flat design for Chicago that can also be easily replicated? It should have equal parts efficiency and aesthetics, is remarkably efficient in the winter, resilient to increasingly strong rainstorms, and architecturally pleasing to become the ubiquitous “Chicago-style” house. A new generation of houses for future Chicago families like the thouands of two- and three-flats that were built for Chicagoans between 1900 and 1918.

Take action

Something any owner of a single-family house or condo, or small multi-unit building can do, is get a low-cost energy assessment from Elevate Energy (in Cook County) or a contractor via Energy Impact Illinois. An expert will come and review your building and recommend some renovations. Rebates and tax credits are available. Interested homeowners, and renters with their landlord’s permission, can ask ComEd for free LED bulbs and water savers.

If you’re interested in solar panels, check out Cook County’s community solar initiative, and the solar map of Cook County.


Full story: Take a walk through an old Hyde Park graystone being retrofitted for “Passivhaus”… was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


Future home of Funkenhausen on the left side of the building and Rhona Hoffman Gallery on the right side.

WEST TOWN — A brick building with lots of windows and terra cotta accents that was originally built for a family-owned furniture store along Chicago’s namesake street is undergoing an interior renovation to bring in new restaurant Funkenhausen and the Rhona Hoffman gallery.

“Rhona is a maven in the art scene and represents very significant artists. [Her gallery relocating to the building] will put a major stamp on Chicago Avenue as an arts district,” said the building’s owner and Hoffman’s new landlord Daniel Boyd.

If everything goes as planned, Boyd said work on the Rhona Hoffman Gallery build-out will be completed by March 1, while Funkenhausen, which Boyd co-owns with chef Mark Steuer, aims to open sometime in the spring. (Update: A spokeswoman for the gallery said on Tuesday it will more likely be April, not March, when the gallery opens).

The 2-story, 15,000 square-foot building at 1709 W. Chicago Ave. sold for $1.825 million in March 2016, county records show. Prior to the sale, it was home to Reach Fitness, a gym that opened in 2013 and later relocated up the street.

Last week, the city issued Boyd a construction permit for a gallery build-out on the first floor, next to Funkenhausen.

No work is to be done to the exterior facade but the interior will get new mechanical, electrical and plumbing, according to the project’s permit.

Boyd, co-owner of West Loop’s Che Bar and La Sirena Clandestina with partner chef John Manion, said he was compelled to buy the building in 2016 because of its “untapped potential” (see previous article) as well as the neighboring businesses on the block, such as Alcala’s Western Wear, an anchor since 1972.

“I love being [Alcala’s] neighbor. I hope Chicago Avenue can keeps its character. It’s in transition,” said Boyd, who lives in the West Loop where he says it’s becoming difficult for galleries and restaurants to stay due to rising rents.

Boyd said the building was initially built for a business named General Furniture Company. A ‘grand looking’ crest on the facade features the logo. Read more about the store’s history on Chicago Now.

The General Furniture crest. [Cityscape/Alisa Hauser]

Described by Chicago magazine as “one of the most influential proponents of contemporary art in Chicago,” and by the Art Dealers Association of America as inimitable, Hoffman received an honorary doctorate from the School of the Art Institute in May 2015, where she shared the stage with Kanye West.

This coming April, Hoffman would have faced a rent hike if she’d stayed in her West Loop gallery, 119 N. Peoria St., she recently told the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA).

“A major problem with being a gallerist now or starting a gallery is the real estate. My lease is up in April, for example, and the landlord wants to raise my rent 27%. It’s outrageous and the same thing is going on in New York,” Hoffman told the ADAA.

Hoffman declined to comment on the relocation. Her gallery specializes in international contemporary art in all medias, and art that is conceptually, formally, or socio-politically based, according to its bio on Twitter, @RHoffmangallery.

Along with four existing galleries (Western Exhibitors, Volume, Document and David Salkin) upstairs from her new digs, Hoffman will join Chicago Avenue’s booming arts scene, which includes the street art focused Truborn Gallery, as well as the Matthew Rachman Gallery at 1659 W. Chicago Ave., among others.

Rachman opened his gallery in 2015. On Sunday Rachman said he has seen an uptick in business due to all the other galleries coming in.

“Being the ‘Lone Ranger’ on the block [in 2015] was tough. Now, we see a lot more traffic coming through. Rhona has one of the most respected, established and long running galleries in Chicago. I’m really excited that Chicago Avenue is turning into the hip new gallery strip in Chicago,” Rachman said.

Also on the 1700 block of West Chicago Avenue: The Chicago Truborn gallery and a mural by Eelco van den Berg, a street artist known as “EELCO”
Alcala’s, a mainstay anchor on the 1700 block of West Chicago Avenue since 1972.
Another view of the building at 1709 W. Chicago Ave.

West Loop rent hike prompts Rhona Hoffman Gallery’s move to up-and-coming West Town ‘Arts District’ was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


How can this energy efficiency standard become as common in Chicago as the kind of house it’s being applied to?

Earlier this month I toured what will most likely become the first Passivhaus Institut-certified building in Illinois. The extremely airtight, single-family house is for sale in Hyde Park, across from the University of Chicago dormitory designed by Studio Gang.

Scroll down for the weekly neighborhood news

The graystone at 5485 S. Ellis Ave., with the blue sign in front, is at the end of four identical row houses.

Being a “passive house” means it will use less energy per household than all of you reading this article–unless you also live in a passive house. Energy efficient houses don’t really appear like they’re going to be extremely energy efficient, and since the one at 5485 S. Ellis Ave. is a retrofit of a 134-year-old row house, it won’t look that way at all.

Mike Conners bought the house in 2015 and has been renovating it since then. He’s renovated other houses in Kenwood and Hyde Park, after spending most of his career as a financial investor.

Mike Conners, the developer, walks around the backyard of the future passive house on Ellis in Hyde Park.

Passivhaus Institut is a German organization that educates contractors and property developers about the passive house standard they’ve developed, and trains companies on how to measure and certify buildings. Conners said that PHI “suggests a ninety percent reduction in build energy demand should be expected all else being equal versus existing” use.

Continue reading about the passive house…

Neighborhood news

  • Map: How much did house prices change from 2016 to 2017 in your community area? The result in Avondale aren’t surprising but the result in East Garfield Park is. Woodlawn had huge jump. (Crain’s)
  • Might existing residents’ desire for less curbside parking competition with new residents prevent an apartment development (or reduce its unit count) in Old Town? (Curbed)
  • “Carol Ross Barney’s long career [as an architect] in Chicago…is almost entirely made up of public works. She thrives on solving knotty, seemingly prosaic infrastructural problems, with a special emphasis on transit.” (Metropolis)
Our Cook County Land Bank Authority properties map is updated daily and can be filtered by any one of our thousands of Places, like ward, ZIP code, TIF district, and community area.
  • Residents are forming their own mental health care clinics after Mayor Emanuel closed them (Belt Mag)
  • Two weeks ago, Whole Foods put their new distribution center in Pullman into service (you can find it on the map here) (WCIU)
  • Also in Pullman: using affirmative marketing and “asset-based community development” as strategies to talk about what’s already good in the neighborhood to improve its prosperity (Sun-Times)

Hyde Park graystone is being retrofitted for “Passivhaus” certification + neighborhood news was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


David Zegeye is a student at Haverford College, and an astrophysicist with a passion for Chicago. Twitter: @DavidZegeye

This past year, Chicago has taken new strides to boost the neighborhood corridors of marginalized communities, where there are fewer opportunities for small businesses to expand their work.

On June 2017, 32 businesses on Chicago’s South, Southwest, and West Sides received a $100,000 grant from Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund. The NOF is a new resource, established in 2016, wherein developers that want to increase the allowable size of their proposed downtown projects pay fees into the fund. Eighty percent of the fees collected are then given as grants to small businesses in marginalized communities. View a map of the investment zones where NOF money can be granted.

Rachel Bernier-Green at her Laine’s Bake Shop in Morgan Park. Photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / Chicago Tribune

Use of the grant money ranged from small establishments seeking to renovate their property to organizations building new communal spaces such as Sisters in Cinema, a South Shore nonprofit that will share history of African-American storytelling and empower future generations using film and storytelling.

A month later, the city’s Retail Thrive Zones initiative provided additional $100,000 grants for 51 different businesses to grow on the South and West Sides. The initiative was meant to assist small businesses located in major commercial sections on the South and West Sides. Money for the Retail Thrive Zones grants was pulled from local TIF districts near the eligible corridors. These two programs are intended to provide vital resources to marginalized communities, such as groceries and community hubs.

Map of businesses that have received grants from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund or Retail Thrive Zones. Map from Retail Thrive Zones

Many neighborhood organizations are excited about the possibilities these innovative programs will bring to their communities.

E.G. Woode is an Englewood based low-profit company that aims to promote new models for economic growth in underdeveloped communities. E.G. Woode has plans to acquire and renovate two buildings on 63rd Street for five businesses that have received a Retail Thrive Zones grant. All the businesses affiliated with E. G. Woode will pay a $15 compulsory minimum wage and will donate a portion of their profits to organizations that benefit Englewood residents, or residents of other marginalized communities in the city.

The two commercial buildings E.G. Woode will renovated. Left: 109 W. 63rd Street. Right: 1122 W. 63rd Street. Images via Google Street View

The Austin African American Business Networking Association (AAABNA) hopes that recent investments can help spur the revival of Chicago Avenue as a major thoroughfare for the neighborhood. The AAABNA plans to rebrand a portion of Chicago Avenue in Austin as “Soul City Corridor”, to attract African-American Businesses and cultural establishments. Seven businesses have received a total of $558,000 from Retail Thrive Zones in order to “help build a better Chicago Avenue”.

Cityscape Pro members can get an “incentives checkup” for any property in Illinois. Look it up by address and we’ll tell you about 16 financial incentives, including Retail Thrive Zones.

Besides city-led initiatives, there are also neighborhood groups leading the charge to redevelop their communities. The Southwest Corridor Collaborative (SWCC) is a culmination of community organizations based on the Southwest Side, the mayor’s office, and the Chicago branch of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC). SWCC will work with business and residents to revitalize major intersections on 63rd Street, as well as major nodes along Halsted and 79th Street. LISC is providing SWCC with $50 million loans and grants over a 10-year period, with an initial $500,000 as seed money.

Aysha Butler, the president of Resident Association of Greater Englewood, is excited that investments will be brought to communities of color along the corridor. She says, “It’s long overdue and this area, 63rd Street, it should be vibrant, all the way from the lake to Pulaski,” she said.

SWCC has ambitious goals for the next three years: provide support and access to capital for 200 small businesses in the SWCC target areas; employ and improve wages for 3,000 residents living in the focus area; and add an additional 750 jobs through new investments (LISC). During the three-year time frame, SWCC is also driving investments to large parcels at 62nd & Western, 63rd & Halsted, and 79th & Vincennes so that there can be a wider impact for residents across the Greater Southwest Side.

Access to enough capital for expansion can be difficult for many businesses in communities of color. Laine’s Bake Shop in Morgan Park, owned by Rachel and Jaryd Bernier-Green, has been rapidly growing in business, where they now sell brownies and cookies to Starbucks and Whole Foods across Chicago and the Midwest. The bakery has been successful and is planning to grow outside of their current Morgan Park shop. Laine’s would seem like an excellent candidate for banks to lend enough money for their expansion. However, acquiring large loans for the business has been a challenge, because “it’s more difficult to get long-term commitment from investors for products with short shelf life”, said Bobby Turner, former regional vice president for Whole Foods’ Midwest region.

Kurt Summers, appointed as Chicago’s City Treasurer in December 2014, has made one of his goals to ensure that marginalized communities in Chicago are not left behind by banks. “The world of traditional financing still views investments in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods with skepticism and is loath to lend money or take equity stakes on reasonable terms,” he said. Microloan programs exist in the city, but “small infusions of cash that must be repaid within a year or two can have only limited impact”.

This was the motivation behind Summers creating a Community Catalyst Fund for the city. The goal of the Catalyst Fund is to jump-start the expansion of neighborhood businesses and real estate developments by offering $100,000 and $1 million loans with affordable interests to small businesses. The Catalyst Fund will invest $100 million over the next 3 years, with the money originating from city’s investment branch.

Summers says the Catalyst Fund will set itself apart from other city-based lending programs by providing “capital where gaps currently exist between existing microlending programs that make relatively small loans and traditional commercial banks which make much larger loans,” he said. Since the program “uses public investment funds to leverage external third-party investment dollars, it increases the overall amount of capital available.” The program only recently appointed their board members, and won’t make its first investments until later in 2018.

Left: Ramirez Rosa (photo by Taylor Castle for Chicago magazine); right: Kurt Summers (photo by Sam Cholke for DNAinfo)

While Summers has many hopes for the Catalyst Fund, the fund has not yet outlined how small businesses can qualify and take out a loan. The fund also expects outside capital to chip in “three times” as much as the initial $100 million, with no mention of where the private funds could originate.

Aldermen have been suspicious of the program’s goals and lack of accountability, with Ald. Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) calling the fund “a blank check from Chicago taxpayers to financiers”.

Summers assured that the Catalyst Fund will only invest in neighborhoods and census tracts with a significant population of low-income households. The program only recently appointed their board members, and won’t make its first investments until later this year.

In the meantime, Rachel Bernier-Green hopes to expand the bakery intro a retail café in Pullman, and open a production facility in Woodlawn if she lands a $350,000 grant from the winter round of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, and raise another $150,000 through crowdfunding.

The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund’s winter round of applications closed on December 22nd 2017, and final decisions won’t be heard until later this winter. Round 3 will be announced this year. As of November 2017, the Opportunity Fund has collected $33.9 million in grants according to the Chicago Department of Planning and Development newsletter.


Signs of small business investments on the South and West Sides 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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