Chicago Cityscape Blog https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog The official blog of Chicago Cityscape en-US 60 <![CDATA[The new Chicago Park District headquarters is under construction]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-new-chicago-park-district-headquarters-is-under-construction-12df56f0a3 On Saturday I took advantage of the first warm sunny day in several weeks to photograph from my hot air balloon the Chicago Park District’s new headquarters that’s under construction in Brighton Park. The building will anchor a new park next to the Western Orange Line station. The circular building is designed by John Ronan Architects and will contain both offices for park district staff and a fieldhouse for Chicagoans to work out, play games, and attend classes.

The current headquarters...

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On Saturday I took advantage of the first warm sunny day in several weeks to photograph from my hot air balloon the Chicago Park District’s new headquarters that’s under construction in Brighton Park. The building will anchor a new park next to the Western Orange Line station. The circular building is designed by John Ronan Architects and will contain both offices for park district staff and a fieldhouse for Chicagoans to work out, play games, and attend classes.

The current headquarters is downtown, at 541 N Fairbanks Ct in Streeterville.

Aerial view looking west showing the building and CTA station.

The office and fieldhouse building overlooks the CTA’s Western Orange Line ‘L’ and bus station (Western Avenue and South California buses stop here).

Aerial view looking southwest at the building portion that faces Western Avenue.
Site plan

Despite being adjacent to an Orange Line station and multiple bus routes, the site plan from June 2020 (above) does not show a traffic signal for people to more safely cross Western Avenue. Instead it depicts an “enhanced” crosswalk.

Aerial view looking south along Western Avenue towards the Orange Line station, showing how close the station and future headquarters will be.
Aerial view looking west-southwest at the future turf fields and existing middle school.

What looked to me like the preparation for a large parking lot is the foundation of two turf fields, between the future lawn and the existing James Shields Middle School.

A rendering shows a view from the north overlooking the meadow; the playground is to the west.

According to the plans approved by the Chicago Plan Commission, the building will be surrounded on the east and west sides by a meadow and lawn, respectively. The houses across 48th Street will face trees that will dot the north edge of the property.

View more renderings


The new Chicago Park District headquarters is under construction was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-new-chicago-park-district-headquarters-is-under-construction-12df56f0a3 Sun, 08 May 2022 19:48:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[The 2022 scavenger sale results are in]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-2022-scavenger-sale-results-are-in-a6691b2ebe More people successfully bid on properties in 2022 than were even registered in 2019

Chicago Cityscape now has the results of the 2022 Scavenger Sale that the Cook County Treasurer conducted in February. The level of bidding activity far surpassed the last sale in 2019; three times more properties were sold to private buyers in 2022 than in 2019.

Our Scavenger Sale Portal has been updated and everyone can see the results of the scavenger sale: whether a property was sold, to whom, where the...

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More people successfully bid on properties in 2022 than were even registered in 2019

Chicago Cityscape now has the results of the 2022 Scavenger Sale that the Cook County Treasurer conducted in February. The level of bidding activity far surpassed the last sale in 2019; three times more properties were sold to private buyers in 2022 than in 2019.

Our Scavenger Sale Portal has been updated and everyone can see the results of the scavenger sale: whether a property was sold, to whom, where the property is, and for how much.

5014 S King Dr, a six-unit residential building, was “sold” in the 2022 Scavenger Sale for the winning bid of $155,000. The “buyer” now has a tax certificate and can redeem it for the property deed, assuming the owner does not pay their past due property taxes, in 2024.

Note to readers: “Sold” is used loosely in the context of Cook County scavenger sales. Winning bidders do not acquire a deed to the property but rather a tax certificate that allows them to redeem the certificate for the deed if the owner does not pay their property taxes during the redemption period (24 months for residential properties and six months for all other properties).

This year over 900 people and businesses registered as bidders and 5,180 properties out of 27,484 were sold to private buyers. (“Private” means that the bidder was not the Cook County Land Bank Authority nor another government in Cook County). In 2019 there were 362 registered bidders, and 1,749 properties out of 28,466 were sold to private buyers.

The Cook County Land Bank Authority acquired fewer properties compared to the last three sales (2015, 2017, 2019). In 2022 the CCLBA acquired 1,951 properties compared to an average of 8,843 in the last three sales.

The increase in properties acquired by private buyers is likely due to several reasons: The CCLBA’s strategy to be more selective in acquiring properties, leaving more properties available for private buyers to bid on; the Cook County Treasurer publishing a list of available properties for free; and Chicago Cityscape creating a free portal to prospect the nearly 30,000 properties.

How to look up scavenger sale results

The results are in the same Scavenger Sale Portal where people prospected properties in February. Some data is new, though: the table shows the auction result, buyer name, and winning bid amount.

a screenshot showing some of the filters that can be used to narrow the search of properties sold in the scavenger sale
The screenshot shows the three new filters that were added to sift through the results of the 2022 Scavenger Sale, comprising: auction result, PIN, and buyer name.

In the filters, choose to show only those properties with a specific result:

  • Sold
  • Not sold (called Offered Not Sold)
  • Acquired by the Cook County Land Bank Authority (“No Cash Bid - Land Bank Authority”)
  • Acquired by another government agency (“No Cash Bid - Other gov’t agency”)

You can also filter by the buyer name. Tip: If you see a buyer’s name more than once, search for their name to show all of the properties they acquired.

Finally, you can search for a single PIN. Perhaps you only to track the results of a few properties; search for them one PIN at a time. If you want to search for more than a few, it’s probably more efficient to download the data table.

The preexisting filters are still there: Municipality, Chicago community area, ZIP code, property type, bid date, potential geographically-based financial incentives, and proximity to transit facilities.

Preparing for the next sale

Properties that didn’t sell at this year’s scavenger sale will be listed on the next one — that’s 19,848 properties.

In the Scavenger Sale data table or map, click on the address or PIN to open Chicago Cityscape’s Address Snapshot report to learn more about the property and decide if you should try to acquire it.

This report, which is available to Cityscape Real Estate Pro members, has zoning information (limited to Chicago, Oak Park, and Evanston), a full list of financial & development incentives, nearby property sales, and local amenities and proposed projects. (Access a sample report.)

Additionally, the Cook County Treasurer’s Annual Tax Sale will be conducted in May and we’ve integrated that property list into our Property Finder tool. If you’re not already familiar with Property Finder, read this Knowledge Base article or request a demonstration.


The 2022 scavenger sale results are in was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-2022-scavenger-sale-results-are-in-a6691b2ebe Thu, 28 Apr 2022 00:56:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[12 features for spring 2022]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/12-features-for-spring-2022-f2b81b21fc Chicago Cityscape never stops upgrading. We’ve heard valuable feedback from our members and Data Equity Cohort participants about data and new solutions that needed to be added to the platform. This is the first regularly occurring quarterly newsletter about new Chicago Cityscape improvements — there’s something for everyone.

We’ll also be demonstrating these features in a live webinar on Thursday, April 14, called “Lunch Break Update with Chicago Cityscape”. RSVP is required...

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Chicago Cityscape never stops upgrading. We’ve heard valuable feedback from our members and Data Equity Cohort participants about data and new solutions that needed to be added to the platform. This is the first regularly occurring quarterly newsletter about new Chicago Cityscape improvements — there’s something for everyone.

We’ll also be demonstrating these features in a live webinar on Thursday, April 14, called “Lunch Break Update with Chicago Cityscape”. RSVP is required in order to get the Zoom link.

Did you know how many “developable land” boxes the vacant lot next to the Cermak Green Line station checks off? Already up zoned, TOD, and opportunity zone. Use Property Finder to locate parcels just like it.

1. Share your access to non-members (new)

Members of the Real Estate Pro and Enterprise tiers can share their access, temporarily, with colleagues and clients. ShareLink currently works on Address Snapshot and Place Snapshot only.

Screenshot showing the “ShareLink” for a Place Snapshot.
Members can copy the link and share it with anyone. Recipients will need to create a free Cityscape account and they’ll have 7 days of access starting when the link was copied by the Cityscape member.

How to use it: Go to any Address or Place Snapshot and look for the “Share a link” section below the names of either snapshot. Copy the link and share!

2. Property Finder improvements

Property Finder is our most powerful feature. It helps developers of all sizes, locations, and missions efficiently find properties all across Cook County that meet their specifications. These are some of the recent improvements:

  • Show Chicago-owned land and Cook County Land Bank Authority-associated properties at the same time (here’s how to use that).
  • Filter by ARO area — the new regulations require that off-site units are built within the same ARO area and/or within 1 mile
  • Find completely or partially vacant properties based on whether they received a reduced assessment (here’s how to find those)

3. TIF-funded projects updates

After nearly two years of not being updated by the source, the map of TIF-funded projects is flowing again. Fifty new projects have been added. This means that all of our Lending & Investment Snapshots — check out the one for Englewood — are showing the latest public sector investments (alongside NOF and SBIF-funded projects).

screenshot of a map of TIF-funded projects in Auburn Gresham
The public sector investments section of Lending & Investment Snapshot — Auburn Gresham shown above — documents the funded and to-be-funded projects that use city monies. It specifically includes Tax Increment Financing (TIF), Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF), and Small Business Improvement Funds (SBIF).

4. Proposed TIF-funded projects (new)

The TIF-funded projects shows public and private sector projects that have already been approved by the Community Development Commission, while this new dataset joins our Leads membership tier to show projects that the Chicago mayor’s administration wants to have funded by TIF. These projects may be a few months away from Community Development Commission and City Council approval.

5. Special property assessment incentive added

The Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program has launched and the Cook County Assessor is accepting applications. The owners of 7+ unit buildings are potentially eligible for “Tier 1” and “Tier 2” incentives, but only owners of properties in downtown Chicago and the downtown expansion area are potentially eligible for the “Tier 3” incentive. Look up an address and load Incentives Checker to see if that incentive is checked or not.

6. Energy benchmarking data enhanced, updated with the latest reporting

The owners of buildings with 50,000 s.f. of gross floor area are required to monitor and report their energy usage to the city. We added this data several years ago to aid climate change advocacy and track the progress of reducing energy usage. In addition, we now believe this can help in understanding a property’s market fundamentals.

We’ve added the 2020 reporting data, built brand-new filters, and created a details page for every building. Find each building’s reporting history, construction stats, and see it in context with building sizes you may be familiar with.

7. Businesses Snapshot (new)

For Place Snapshots in Chicago, the business licenses data has moved to a new page — and the new page offers two new features to help SSA and Chamber of Commerce managers:

  • New business licenses issued since a specific time. By default, only licenses issued in the last 7 days are shown, but if visited after clicking on a link in a Place Snapshot email notification then business licenses issued since the date specified in the email notification are shown.
  • Business types compared to similar places. Activities of different businesses are summarized in the given Businesses Snapshot and compared to others of the same Place Type; for example, one Chicago community area is compared to the 76 other community areas.

Example: 60608 ZIP code or 25th Ward

screenshot showing a chart comparing business types

The chart above shows that there are 322 dry cleaning businesses in the 50 wards of Chicago and that there are seven in the 25th Ward, which is slightly higher than the average per ward of 6.4.

8. Cannabis: Infusers + new locations

Cannabis Compliance now shows the locations of state-licensed infusers (across Illinois, not just in Chicaog). The infusers are listed in the same map and data table as craft growers and cultivation centers. A simple filter makes it possible to instantly show a single business type at a time.

Plus, we added the locations of several more proposed and state-licensed craft growers and dispensaries. We keep a “change log” so Cityscape Real Estate Pro members can see what’s changed since they last checked.

Not a member? Start a free trial, no credit card needed.

9. Logistics facilities on a statewide map

Transportation & Jobs Snapshot has had logistics facilities for over a year, and now there’s a statewide map showing the location of 114 (at press time) distribution warehouses, Amazon, and delivery and sorting centers.

10. Amenities & social infrastructure updated

Every year, the high school-age mappers working for MAPSCorps take a “business census” of a large part of Chicago. Last year they covered the largest area of Chicago so far, and we’ve got their data on the locations of restaurants, doctors offices, convenience stores, and social services (among other categories).

screenshot of an Amenities map
It’s better than a walk score since it summarizes the quantity of each type of neighborhood amenity within walking distance.

That data gets updated annually and is mixed with similar data from OpenStreetMap to ensure we have an accurate map of the amenities and social infrastructure within a one-mile walk of an Address Snapshot or contained within a Place Snapshot. Find an error? Tell us!

11. Revamped landmarks

We made a big change based on some feedback and the desire to show more: In the previous setup, members could find only the landmarks that overlapped a given Address Snapshot or Place Snapshot. Now, landmarks that are nearby can also be found.

Additionally, members can filter to show only landmarks and landmark districts matching the desired type. There are four types to show: Chicago landmarks, Chicago landmark districts, Evanston historic districts, and National Register of Historic Places. We also added the NRHP locations in Evanston!

How to use: Read our separate article about the landmarks changes.

12. New Evanston data

In addition to adding the Evanston historic districts and National Register of Historic Places districts, we’ve also added Evanston’s four Special Service Areas, added Evanston’s newest TIF district, and updated the boundary of another Evanston TIF district.

The newly added SSAs and TIF districts will appear in Incentives Checker when looking up an address or place anywhere in Evanston.

Honorable mentions

  • We’ve updated the boundaries for several of the Special Service Areas in Chicago so they’re current and added a new SSA in West Garfield Park.
  • Tons of new Knowledge Base articles (15 new or updated this year so far).

12 features for spring 2022 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/12-features-for-spring-2022-f2b81b21fc Mon, 28 Mar 2022 16:13:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[What’s up in the West Loop: Cranes]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/what-s-up-in-the-west-loop-cranes-0e2ec63d45 A screenshot of the Chicago Cityscape real-time development map centered on the West Loop overlaid with five aerial photos of five construction projects.

The Chicago Cityscape real-time development map is updated daily showing recent new construction and renovation projects, proposed projects that require zoning changes, and significant citywide developments.

The real-time development map is accessible to everyone but a Cityscape account or membership is needed to see all of the details on the map. Additionally, Cityscape members with the Leads or Real Estate Pro tier know about these projects months, and sometimes years, before they begin...

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A screenshot of the Chicago Cityscape real-time development map centered on the West Loop overlaid with five aerial photos of five construction projects.

The Chicago Cityscape real-time development map is updated daily showing recent new construction and renovation projects, proposed projects that require zoning changes, and significant citywide developments.

The real-time development map is accessible to everyone but a Cityscape account or membership is needed to see all of the details on the map. Additionally, Cityscape members with the Leads or Real Estate Pro tier know about these projects months, and sometimes years, before they begin construction. You can request a demo of this and other Chicago Cityscape features.

We created a West Loop edition of the map to show brand new aerial photos of five construction projects — four new construction and one demolition. All photos were taken by Eric Allix Rogers.

Bridgford Foods

This former meatpacking facility was being demolished through March, to make way for a new multi-tower mixed-use development on the block facing Lake Street between Green and Peoria Streets. The facility comprised multiple buildings, each one requiring its own demolition permit; here’s one permit, issued in December 2021, which has a map showing the others.

164 N Peoria St

Across from the former Bridgford Foods, 164 N Peoria St (formerly known as 900 W Randolph St) is a new construction high-rise with 300 apartments being developed by Related Midwest.

166 N Aberdeen St

Across from Quarters, one of Chicago’s biggest co-living buildings, a 21-story residential building with 224 dwelling units is under construction. It will have 70 car spaces. The developer, MCZ Development, obtained the zoning change for this project in 2018.

The previous uses were a meatpacking plant facing Aberdeen and restaurants on Randolph Street.

160 N Elizabeth St

Moceri + Roszak — developer of Parkline on Wabash/Randolph — is developing a 27-story building with 375 dwelling units, 144 car parking spaces, and groundfloor commercial space. Previous uses here were a car wash and car repair shop. A Stan’s Donuts factory is across the alley.

345 N Morgan St

Sterling Bay is building another office building in the West Loop, kitty corner from the office building they rehabbed for Google. The planned development — for an 11-story and an 18-story office building — was approved in 2019; according to the leasing website the design evokes historic railroad terminals.

Chicago Cityscape maintains a Proposed Projects database — development proposals that need zoning changes — and adds 30 new projects each month. We also send a newsletter highlighting five new projects twice a month. Start a free trial to see the over 600 projects we’ve mapped, annotated, and visualized over the past two years, or request a demo.


What’s up in the West Loop: Cranes was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/what-s-up-in-the-west-loop-cranes-0e2ec63d45 Wed, 16 Mar 2022 14:08:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[ADU permits trickling in spring 2022]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/adu-permits-trickling-in-spring-2022-04368720bb Updated 4/4/22 to add a missing ADU permit and recalculate the statistics.

Here’s a quick update for you about accessory dwelling units in Chicago for spring 2022:

  • 38 permits have been issued, to add 44 new dwelling units. A 39th permit was issued to legalize an existing basement dwelling unit, for 45 units.
  • Of the 39 permits, 11 are for backyard and coach houses (which can only have one unit each).
  • Of the 28 interior ADU permits, 100 percent are for basement units.
  • The Chicago Dept. of...
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Updated 4/4/22 to add a missing ADU permit and recalculate the statistics.

Here’s a quick update for you about accessory dwelling units in Chicago for spring 2022:

  • 38 permits have been issued, to add 44 new dwelling units. A 39th permit was issued to legalize an existing basement dwelling unit, for 45 units.
  • Of the 39 permits, 11 are for backyard and coach houses (which can only have one unit each).
  • Of the 28 interior ADU permits, 100 percent are for basement units.
  • The Chicago Dept. of Housing has approved 258 pre-applications representing 291 dwelling units. (Subtracting the 44 permitted units that gives us 246 units that have yet to receive building permit applications. We don’t know which of those have even entered the building permit process.)
  • Of those 291 units: 204 are for interior ADUs and 87 units in backyard and coach houses.
Two coach houses under construction in the North ADU Pilot Area.

Do you want to add an accessory dwelling unit to your property? There are a few basic requirements (all of which can be revisited in our ADU Portal):

  1. Your property must be in one of the five ADU pilot areas. Check address.
  2. Basement heights must be 7' from finished floor to finished ceiling or the height will have to be increased.
  3. Your option is between an interior apartment and a coach house. The ADU ordinance doesn’t allow a property to have both, but there is a way to see if your property has #UnusedZoningCapacity.

Statistics continue below

  • The average number of permitted ADU units for the group of 39 properties is 1.21 units (this is probably not an informative number). Most permits are for one unit; one permit is for four new units and three permits are for two units each.
  • 29 of the 39 permits had a reported processing time: the average time from submission to the Dept. of Buildings to issuance was 66.5 days; the median time was 51.5 days.
  • Five permits took more than 100 days and two took more than 200 days to be issued. The processing time stat reported by DOB doesn’t break down the time spent with the applicant — working on revisions — and time spent with staff reviewers.
  • The Chicago Cityscape ADU Service Provider directory has 49 architects (identifying which ones have self-cert status), general contractors, engineers, developers, manufacturers, and consultants.
  • Seven of the 39 permits had self-certified architects, and processing time was not reported. Self-cert permits are often issued within a few days.
  • Costs: If the reported estimated cost is taken at face value, the average cost of a basement unit’s construction is $97.766 (considering the 28 permits for 44 basement units). The median cost (per unit) is $75,000, while the lowest cost is $25,000 and the highest cost is $250,000.
  • The most expensive project is adding four units.
  • The second most expensive project, $250,000, is for one basement ADU but other renovations in the building including adding a third bedroom to the existing six units. The other projects that are above average also appear to be doing non-ADU renovations.
  • Costs for coach houses: The average reported cost of a coach house is $144,816. I think this is unreasonable in the current market (considering both labor and materials, as well as unexpected costs) and that I expect many coach house owners to report at least $100,000 more once all costs are tallied.

ADU permits trickling in spring 2022 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/adu-permits-trickling-in-spring-2022-04368720bb Wed, 16 Mar 2022 10:17:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Chicago’s first two-unit modular house is constructed — more are on the way]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-s-first-two-unit-modular-house-is-constructed-more-are-on-the-way-0f225ce7d5 Chicago’s first two-unit modular house is constructed — more are on the way

Kinexx Modular Construction, which I’ve been writing about for three years now, has installed the first two-unit prefabricated and modular house in Chicago at 2854 W Harrison St in East Garfield Park. The two units are back-to-back rather than in a two-flat (one over the other) design.

Not a Cityscape member but want to see an unlocked Address Snapshot? Try out our new ShareLink feature: this link will give...

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Chicago’s first two-unit modular house is constructed — more are on the way

Kinexx Modular Construction, which I’ve been writing about for three years now, has installed the first two-unit prefabricated and modular house in Chicago at 2854 W Harrison St in East Garfield Park. The two units are back-to-back rather than in a two-flat (one over the other) design.

Not a Cityscape member but want to see an unlocked Address Snapshot? Try out our new ShareLink feature: this link will give anyone who’s signed in full access to the Address Snapshot report for 2854 W Harrison St until April 8, 2022.

I caught the third-to-last module being installed on February 15, 2022.

Like Kinexx’s other modular houses, which were single-detached houses built in one day, the two-unit house was erected and weathertight in two days. Josh Braun, CEO, said, “We started at 7am on Monday morning and the entire structure was erected by 2pm on Tuesday.” The roof was added on Wednesday and the next day, ComEd turned on electricity to the house.

These townhouses — which will be for sale for around $245,000— are part of the Harrison Row development, being built by Structured Development and Fain’s Development. (How many times can I write “development” in a sentence?)

The townhouses will also be affordable, put into the Chicago Community Land Trust portfolio, and sold to people earning up to specific incomes (here’s the March 2022 list of homes for sale and the income ranges).

I went to the Kinexx factory in December to see how they’re built. The factory has multiple assembly lines; tracks carry moveable platforms that each hold one of the modules.

From left to right: The factory floor, with some modules being constructed early in the process; Josh Braun, center, speaks to two people building the modules for Chicago’s first two-unit prefabricated and modular house; Paul Tebben, on the right, architect at Kinexx, describes the living room layout for the two-unit house. Photos taken December 16, 2021.

There are several other two-unit houses for Harrison Row being constructed in the factory. They’ll get installed on the three foundations that were curing last weekend. (We have a map of all of the permitted Kinexx houses.)

Two foundations were being built west of the new modular house, and one was being built east of it. (Photo taken on March 5, 2022.)

Each of the units in the back-to-back townhouses is 1,500 s.f., and has one and a half bathrooms and three bedrooms with walk-in closets. The kitchens have dedicated pantries and the mechanical room has storage space. Additionally, there are closets under the staircases.

Floor plan for Kinexx’s back-to-back townhouse design.

Right away, I see a major advantage to the back-to-back design: Nobody lives above you so you won’t hear their noises. No matter how tall the house is, though, the builders in the climate-controlled factory are always working at ground level — one of the benefits of prefabricated construction.

The house had a roof when I checked on it four days later on February 19, 2022.

In addition to the two-unit townhouses, Kinexx has sold three single-detached house to a private developer in South Shore for installation on a triple-wide lot that’s been vacant for over 24 years. It was erected in January.

Kinexx has also built two single-detached houses for The Resurrection Project (which I already covered) in Back of the Yards and one for Lawndale Christian Development Corporation in North Lawndale.

Kinexx has a two and three-flat design on offer, and the ground floor is ready to be accessible, should someone select that option. I can’t wait until someone buys and builds the first modular two-flat in Chicago.


Chicago’s first two-unit modular house is constructed — more are on the way was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-s-first-two-unit-modular-house-is-constructed-more-are-on-the-way-0f225ce7d5 Tue, 08 Mar 2022 22:42:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Apply for this new property tax incentive by March 31]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/apply-for-this-new-property-tax-incentive-by-march-31-d7d942ef64 Back in September we told you about a new incentive that would reduce an apartment building’s assessed value if the owner undertook significant renovations and rented a minimum proportion of units at an affordable rate. The incentive — which we called HB 2621 — now has a name in Cook County: Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program (AHSAP).

In addition to renovated and upgraded apartment buildings, new construction developers can also apply. Buildings must have seven or...

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Back in September we told you about a new incentive that would reduce an apartment building’s assessed value if the owner undertook significant renovations and rented a minimum proportion of units at an affordable rate. The incentive — which we called HB 2621 — now has a name in Cook County: Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program (AHSAP).

In addition to renovated and upgraded apartment buildings, new construction developers can also apply. Buildings must have seven or more units to be eligible.

a photo of a 3.5 story apartment building in Bronzeville that was renovated in ~2018.
This apartment building in Bronzeville was renovated recently, increasing the number of apartments from 28 to 31. (This is only for visual purposes; it’s unknown if this apartment building would be eligible for the Affordable Housing Special Assessment Program.)

The value of the incentive depends on how many apartments are rented at the stipulated affordability levels (see the chart) and the level of building renovations and upgrades. There are three tiers (PDF), based on the number of units that meet the affordable rent standards.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 apply countywide. Tier 3, however, offers a greater incentive and applies only in “low affordability communities”, which are currently downtown Chicago and suburban Cook County municipalities where less than 40 percent of the housing is affordable (the Illinois Housing Development Authority, or IHDA, has identified these).

Property owners in Chicago who have ARO units are also able to apply for the incentive.

Important dates

February 15, 2022

here is an informational webinar targeted to property owners who’ve received a Class 9 property tax incentive on Tuesday, February 15, 2022. Register for that webinar now, and email assessor.affordablehousing@cookcountyil.gov to receive reminders about future webinars.

March 31, 2022

To apply for the 2022 assessment year, the soft application deadline is March 31, 2022. Submit an application on the Assessor’s website. The assessor also posted a new FAQ (PDF).

Areas with less affordable housing

Tier 3 applies only in downtown Chicago and 47 Cook County suburbs — places with the least amount of affordable housing as a proportion of all housing — and has the greatest reduction in assessed value. Tier 3 also requires the greatest investment in systems upgrades for existing buildings.

The “downtown expansion area” is a zoning designation that encompasses several areas outside Downtown Chicago — itself another zoning designation — where property owners can apply to have an underlying zoning district changed to a “D” district. See the map below or on our dedicated page.

map of Chicago’s downtown area and downtown expansion area, as defined by the Chicago zoning code

Use Incentives Checker within Address Snapshot (look up an address now) to see if the Tier 3 incentive might apply (we look up the Downtown Expansion Areas for Chicago-based addresses, and the 47 qualifying suburban Cook County municipalities).


Apply for this new property tax incentive by March 31 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/apply-for-this-new-property-tax-incentive-by-march-31-d7d942ef64 Wed, 09 Feb 2022 17:12:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Efficiently find and prospect Scavenger Sale properties]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/efficiently-find-and-prospect-scavenger-sale-properties-02e5d54ed2 Chicago Cityscape’s Scavenger Sale Portal is now live. The Portal’s map and table — free for everyone to use — show 31,209 properties that have three or more years of unpaid taxes and they are easy to discover using the Portal’s search and filter features.

First, if you think you’re going to want to bid on a property, you need to register in person at the Cook County Treasurer’s office by Friday, February 4, 2022. After you’ve filled out the form and dropped it off...

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Chicago Cityscape’s Scavenger Sale Portal is now live. The Portal’s map and table — free for everyone to use — show 31,209 properties that have three or more years of unpaid taxes and they are easy to discover using the Portal’s search and filter features.

First, if you think you’re going to want to bid on a property, you need to register in person at the Cook County Treasurer’s office by Friday, February 4, 2022. After you’ve filled out the form and dropped it off with the $100 registration fee, come back to the Portal to start prospecting.

Update: I registered at 1 PM today and it took less than 10 minutes. I waited a couple minutes in line to pay the friendly cashier, and then took the receipt to the “tax desk” around the corner where a staffer ensured my form was filled out correctly.

In this post I’m going to assume you already know how the Scavenger Sale works and that you’re interested in using our Portal to efficiently sift through the list of over 31,000 properties. (If you don’t already know about the sale, learn more in the Portal but the Cook County Treasurer’s own FAQ and rules [PDF] for potential buyers are the most important resources).

By the end of the post, you’ll have found some properties to watch for at the auction and have a way to track the bidding schedule for each one.

A screenshot of the map and table section of the Chicago Cityscape Scavenger Sale Portal.

Here’s how I recommend using the Portal

Your development idea and proposal will inform the property type to acquire. More than half of the properties are vacant lots (58 percent). Then there are many single-detached houses (15 percent), residential side yards (five percent), and two-to-six flats (four percent). In the remaining 18 percent there are condos and commercial and industrial buildings.

You can filter for just these types of properties using “Filter by property class”:

  1. Click into the filter field and search for keywords like “vacant” and “flat” and “industrial”. The resulting list is divided into two parts: The results in the first list are part of our custom groups, which select multiple property classes based on a theme, and the second list are individual property classes that are assigned to properties by the Cook County Assessor.
  2. After selecting the property group or class, click the “Apply filters” button. You can use multiple filters at the same time, but you must click the “Apply filters” button to refresh your search.

Layer on more filters, by choosing proximity to transit, which looks for Scavenger Sale properties that are within 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile of a CTA or Metra station, or select CTA bus routes that have higher frequency service.

The majority of properties in the 2022 Scavenger Sale are in Chicago, but most Cook County suburbs also have participating properties. Use the “Filter by city” form to browse and search the municipalities with one or more properties in the sale.

The number in parentheses indicates the approximate number of properties in the sale in that municipality. This filter allows you to choose multiple municipalities.

Click the “Apply filters” button and the map and table will refresh to show only properties in the places you selected.

In Chicago it’s possible to narrow your search to specific community areas — search for one by name with “Filter by ZIP or community area”. Note that most community areas on the north side of Chicago have few to no properties and most of them are condos.

Also in Chicago it’s possible to search by zoning. This will be helpful if you want to only prospect properties that are already amenable to your development plan. Use this filter sparingly as being very specific may significantly reduce the number of properties in your search, or be empty.

I want to mention one more filter: incentives and opportunities. We’ve added these incentives here for some scavenger sale buyers who are familiar with these options and can take advantage of them. You can learn about each of them in Chicago Cityscape’s Incentives Checker but we cannot advise on which ones may be appropriate for your development idea.

Default filters

Every time you load the Scavenger Sale Portal be mindful that there are two filters in place by default: Condos are hidden from view as these are likely occupied by residents and it’s next to impossible to gather information about them; lots smaller than 2,500 s.f. are also hidden from view since there are many sliver lots that cannot be developed.

Why 2,500? In Chicago, new housing can only be built on a property that has a lot area of 2,500 s.f. or larger. (Perhaps you’re interested in a modular house.) You can change this number to any other whole number, or erase it (then click the “Apply filters” button).

Keeping a list for yourself

After using the filters to narrow down the list to a manageable number of properties that meet your development criteria, I recommend exporting the Portal data and importing to a spreadsheet. You can use Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel online for free and both will import the Portal data.

First, however, you need to expand the number of properties shown on the map from 50 to a number that includes all the properties you found. Below the table, click the “50” dropdown menu and choose a number higher than the number of properties that resulted from your filtering (that number is also shown just below the dropdown menu).

Below the filters box, find “Download the data”. These buttons let you export data as a CSV file, for a spreadsheet, or as a GeoJSON file, for a GIS program.

Click on “Export as CSV” and in a moment a small CSV file will be downloaded to your computer. The exported file has all of the data that is shown in the Portal: address, PIN, property type, total delinquency, and bid date.

The Scavenger Sale Portal will export a CSV file to your computer that you can open in a spreadsheet application. Add a “Notes” column to record your thoughts and research.

Import the CSV file to your spreadsheet program and add a “notes” column to record details you learn about each property, as well as your thoughts. The “Bid date” column can be used to sort and show first the properties that will be auctioned first. If your list has properties across Chicago or in different municipalities, there will be several bid dates. But if your list has properties in the same neighborhood they will share a bid date.

Getting into prospecting

Prospecting a property means figuring out what makes that location a good place to develop. You’ll want to research, research, research. Chicago Cityscape makes this easier for many developers and emerging developers by combining 100s of data sources into one.

In the Portal, the addresses and PINs link to that property’s Address Snapshot report on the Chicago Cityscape platform. Each report is regenerated on a daily basis, as many of our data sources are updated every day.

A full Address Snapshot report requires a Cityscape Real Estate Pro membership or a one-time purchase. The Chicago Community Trust is also sponsoring a number of Cityscape memberships, and we are currently accepting applications.

The Address Snapshot can tell you…

  • Zoning district and zoning capabilities of any Chicago property.
  • Proximity to transit
  • Nearby amenities & social infrastructure (libraries, cafés, schools, and medical offices)
  • Property sales comps
  • Full Incentives Checker — checking our entire database of 32 incentives
  • Nearby proposed and new construction projects
  • The names of elected officials
  • And so much more

Efficiently find and prospect Scavenger Sale properties was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/efficiently-find-and-prospect-scavenger-sale-properties-02e5d54ed2 Thu, 27 Jan 2022 11:28:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[The next Scavenger Sale starts in February 2022]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-next-scavenger-sale-starts-in-february-2022-0961d6a574 The Cook County Scavenger Sale is an auction in which people can acquire properties that have at least three years of unpaid taxes; it begins on February 14. The scavenger sale is required by Illinois law to happen every two years. The 2021 sale, for properties with taxes delinquent in the 2018 property tax year and earlier, was skipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration is over. Start prospecting on our Portal. Look up one of the Scavenger Sale properties with Address Snapshot and...

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The Cook County Scavenger Sale is an auction in which people can acquire properties that have at least three years of unpaid taxes; it begins on February 14. The scavenger sale is required by Illinois law to happen every two years. The 2021 sale, for properties with taxes delinquent in the 2018 property tax year and earlier, was skipped due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Registration is over. Start prospecting on our Portal. Look up one of the Scavenger Sale properties with Address Snapshot and get a free report using coupon code SCAVENGERSALE2.

To have a chance at bidding on and acquiring any of 31,209 properties in Cook County, potential buyers must register in person at the Treasurer’s office during normal business hours by Friday, February 4, in two weeks.

Of the 31,209 properties in the Scavenger Sale, a little under half are in the City of Chicago. Most of those are vacant lots in areas with high infill potential, meaning they’re supported by local infrastructure including ‘L’ stations, TOD-eligible bus corridors, and proposed public and private sector investments. Use Chicago Cityscape’s Scavenger Sale Portal to quickly locate these kinds of properties.

Chicago Cityscape will be launching a special and free Scavenger Sale Portal next week to find and prospect properties. Access a beta version.

The portal is funded by the Chicago Community Trust, which is supporting structural reforms to the process that must be adopted as legislative changes in Springfield and administrative changes locally.

Right now, though, Chicago Cityscape is pushing people to register with the Cook County Treasurer’s office to bid.

How does the Scavenger Sale work?

When a property owner does not pay their property taxes for three years or more, the opportunity to acquire the property from them is sold to the public via a scavenger sale that is required by Illinois law. The price is decided on via an auction, with a minimum bid of $250. The buyer does not have to pay the back taxes, but must pay future taxes even before they have a deed to the property.

After the redemption period expires — during which the current owner can pay back taxes and stop the sale — the buyer can apply to obtain the deed. Assuming the buyer followed all of the rules, Cook County gives the deed to the buyer.

The redemption period is six months for vacant lots and commercial properties (7+ units, mixed use, industrial, retail, office, etc.) and 30 months for residential properties (1–6 units, condos, townhouses).

Check if your property has unpaid property taxes; it’s still possible to pay the back taxes and remove a property from the sale before it starts.


The next Scavenger Sale starts in February 2022 was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-next-scavenger-sale-starts-in-february-2022-0961d6a574 Wed, 19 Jan 2022 14:11:00 -0600 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Data Equity Cohort at the midpoint: recent progress + future improvements]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/data-equity-cohort-at-the-midpoint-recent-progress-future-improvements-c246640c5e Chicago Cityscape’s mission is to spark and inspire equitable development and investment in Chicago’s overlooked neighborhoods. We accomplish this, in part, by gathering and creating datasets that show assets, amenities, construction, and investments that nobody else publishes. Our expansive community development and real estate information platform is complex and not yet available to or usable by everyone. Last year we decided to change who and how people access essential data and urban...

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Chicago Cityscape’s mission is to spark and inspire equitable development and investment in Chicago’s overlooked neighborhoods. We accomplish this, in part, by gathering and creating datasets that show assets, amenities, construction, and investments that nobody else publishes. Our expansive community development and real estate information platform is complex and not yet available to or usable by everyone. Last year we decided to change who and how people access essential data and urban policy insights.

Data Equity Cohort members need to know the same data as anyone else doing real estate, community, and economic development, including where new construction is happening like in the photo above, but approach the needs from a mission-driven and community-informed perspective. Photo by Steven Vance, Bronzeville, November 2021.

What is DEC?

Chicago Cityscape created the Data Equity Cohort (DEC) last summer to teach and to learn. When the COVID pandemic began in early 2020, we tried to adapt to reach and assist new types of members: people and organizations who felt the calling to assist fellow Chicagoans with their health, housing, and property-related matters. While our efforts were unsuccessful, we received guidance from the Chicago Community Trust who then invited us to apply for a grant to form the DEC and operate a new type (for us) of collaborative design research.

Our goals for DEC are to give members unfettered and aided access to Chicago Cityscape, teach them how to use our powerful community and real estate development platform, learn from them what they need and how our platform can be a more useful and integral part of their work, and make specific changes based on their input.

That last goal is the most important: We are committing to making changes to the website and how we operate based on the feedback we get and the conversations we have with members, both in the meetings and one-to-one.

The program started in October and after a series of onboarding sessions and two series of meetings in October and November. Casey Smagala manages the program and discussions are facilitated by Kate Maitland, a design researcher hired specifically for DEC.

I’ll talk about what we’ve accomplished with the DEC program in 2021, but first I want to tell you about the members of DEC.

Who’s in DEC

DEC’s 28 members are mission-minded individual or organization leaders. They include non-profit economic development practitioners, developers, brokers, housing organizers, and other real estate professionals and consultants.

They are interested in (among many other goals):

  • Better understand development trends in their neighborhood (a service area or the community in which they work)
  • Recruiting and retaining new businesses and buildings, the specifics of which are based on community input
  • Highlight the assets of their area, especially transit, zoning, incentives, and developable land
The graphic visualizes eight goals that DEC members explained to us that they hope to use Chicago Cityscape to help them achieve.

We set equity goals at the beginning and embedded this into our recruitment strategy, and so I’m happy that the group’s demographics reflects the diversity of Chicago and its neighborhoods. A majority of DEC members are persons of color and a majority of them are women.

Finally, DEC members are compensated with a free Cityscape Real Estate Pro membership for the duration of the program (a nearly $1,000 value) and $250 for their time and input.

Where are we now

DEC has held two series of meetings with all members. Casey conducted an onboarding session with every DEC member in September and October to acquaint them with the Chicago Cityscape platform. (This onboarding is also available to every new member, outside of DEC.)

During DEC meetings, we’ve used diverse facilitation tools, from surveys to feedback discussions, to create the opportunity for members to share their experiences and ideas. We’ve covered a range of topics from their confidence level in using data to specific input they have to improve the Chicago Cityscape platform, including generating and ranking ideas for new features.

Because it’s important for us that the learning go in both directions, all meetings include a short demonstration of a “pro tip” on how to use Chicago Cityscape.

One part of our design research is to group so many different backgrounds, needs, and goals, into a few manageable “personas”. For example, “Rosa” is an amalgamation of some of the members in DEC, who needs myriad data resources but could benefit from improved presentation and the ability to share it.

Based on the feedback and data we’ve gathered from DEC members, we decided upon the “improvement commitments” described below.

Four improvement commitments

The four improvements Chicago Cityscape is committing to make comprise one new data feature, a new onboarding process that points new users towards the solutions their peers use, a tool that enables sharing of certain reports between colleagues, and putting contextual explainers and tutorials next to what members are using so the website becomes more “self-explanatory”.

1. Adding a new dataset

Showing vacant buildings is the next step for Cityscape to give members another data point to assess local opportunities. Nearly every DEC member cares about the status of properties in “their area”; it could be where they are employed to oversee or manage the economic development of, or an area where they prefer to do their real estate development.

Currently, Chicago Cityscape has vacant property within our Property Finder feature, making it super simple to locate these properties in Cook County. The status is based on the Cook County Assessor’s classification of the property. The challenge is that updated data can be delayed — the detail may not get collected in the first year that a property becomes vacant — and it has become less salient.

We have obtained another source, though: Property tax appeals due to vacancy. Commercial building owners are able to appeal and reduce their property’s assessed value due to a space in the building existing without a tenant. This dataset will be integrated with Property Finder and as a new section within Address Snapshots and Place Snapshots.

2. Strengthening the onboarding process

An “onboarding” process helps new users become acquainted with solutions that help them accomplish their goals. But we heard from DEC members that getting started using the Chicago Cityscape platform could be overwhelming. That makes sense because depending on how generously you look at it, Chicago Cityscape either doesn’t have an “onboarding” process, or it’s a hodgepodge of webpages.

Through this improvement commitment we will refashion how new users are presented with the capabilities of our community and real estate information platform. This will likely start by pointing new users to our “Solutions” pages that list features that can be used to accomplish certain goals. In addition, we may promote relevant Knowledge Base articles as people progress and learn about Cityscape’s capabilities at their own pace. (See also the next and final improvement commitment.)

3. Making reports shareable

All Chicago Cityscape features require a membership to use fully, to see and download all data, and to receive rich notifications. However, for most DEC members, including those who work with others who don’t have a membership, this sharing barrier can reduce the benefit of having so much access to high-quality data and insights that no other platform has.

We have a plan to make it possible to share our most popular report pages — Address Snapshot and Place Snapshot, to start — with other people. We will discuss the priorities our DEC members have to help us design this feature.

4. Offering more data context and confidence

An overarching theme was that Cityscape should do a better job of describing its capabilities, who they’re designed for, and how to use them. One way to do that would be to explain these “on the fly”, as people are discovering features.

One DEC member mentioned that the vibe they get from the site is that every feature is designed for people who “do” property development. And another member said that this may cause some people to miss that Chicago Cityscape has tools and data for them, even when “it has tremendous value to a lot of people outside of the context of development.”

A graphic with a lot of text. “Not all data is created equal and DEC members know it. They want to be able to see what kind of data they’re looking in a way that’s seamless to their experience without being distracting.” Then, there are three quotes from DEC members describing their concerns about data freshness and quality.
DEC members are quoted in the graphic above, describing their concerns about data freshness and quality.

Another deficiency is that while Chicago Cityscape talks about social equity it’s not reflected anywhere in the website.

To address both shortcomings, we have proposed a “help me with this” button that will be located amongst several features to provide context: Where the data comes from, how some people use the data, what the data’s own shortcomings are, related policies, and links to relevant Knowledge Base articles. A beta version of the “help me with this” button can be seen in Property Finder, which is one of our most powerful features.

The last steps

Kate and Casey will be hosting more sessions with our DEC members during which we’ll be sharing these proposed and in-progress improvements, using their feedback for further improvement, and ensuring they can leverage every solution on our site.

Before Chicago Cityscape access to the most valuable public data and policy insights for Chicago and Cook County that drives community and real estate development was only in the hands of well-resourced individuals. Now the information needed to spark and inspire more equitable investment in overlooked neighborhoods belongs to the folks who live there.

To our DEC members: Using a platform like Chicago Cityscape is new to most of them, and running a program like DEC is new to us. We thank them for making the time to help improve our platform for their peers and the betterment of Chicago.

Finally, thank you to the Chicago Community Trust for their investment in our DEC members via this program. Your support is helping democratize data to leaders who deserve it.


Data Equity Cohort at the midpoint: recent progress + future improvements was originally published in Chicago Cityscape’s Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/data-equity-cohort-at-the-midpoint-recent-progress-future-improvements-c246640c5e Wed, 05 Jan 2022 16:43:00 -0600 Steven Vance