Chicago Cityscape Blog https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog The official blog of Chicago Cityscape en-US 60 <![CDATA[The first three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-first-three-obama-presidential-center-permits-were-issued-61f1a0a2b2 The 1st three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued

The Obama Presidential Center got its first building permits this week for construction within Jackson Park. Three building permits cover installing caissons (part of foundation work) and tree removal and site clearing for the “forum”, a Chicago Public Library branch, and a partially submerged parking garage. This post briefly covers where those future structures are and what they look like.

Start by reviewing the site plan...

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The 1st three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued

The Obama Presidential Center got its first building permits this week for construction within Jackson Park. Three building permits cover installing caissons (part of foundation work) and tree removal and site clearing for the “forum”, a Chicago Public Library branch, and a partially submerged parking garage. This post briefly covers where those future structures are and what they look like.

Start by reviewing the site plan below, which is dated October 2019 and I believe the most recent version. You can interact with this story on Twitter.

Want to be notified when new permits come in? Sign up for a Chicago Cityscape members. All membership tiers include permit notifications.

Our highest membership tier, Cityscape Real Estate Pro, is $100 off a year-long subscription for new subscribers until August 30, 2021. Sign up instantly or request a demo.

The Forum

The Forum building is the two-story building shown on the right in the image below, and is southeast of the 219-feet tall museum on the left. The permitted address is 6011 S Stony Island Ave. It will be 22 feet tall.

The Obama Presidential Center website describes the Forum “a commons designed to bring people together” to contain a broadcast and recording studio, auditorium, meeting spaces, and a restaurant. The Forum’s roof overhangs the plaza by 17 feet, providing a good amount of area under shade and protected from precipitation.

A rendering of the Forum and plaza. The base of the museum is shown on the left. All images are attributed to Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.
This rendering is from the view atop the Chicago Public Library branch; the Forum is on the right, the the museum tower is in the background, and the plaza is in the foreground. The view is looking north, and Stony Island Ave is on the left.

The library

The Obama Presidential Center is not a presidential library, since it doesn’t meet the standards of such set forth by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). There is an Obama Presidential Library, though, and it exists in archives and online (read how that works).

But there will be a library, a branch of the Chicago Public Library. A unique aspect of this library is the rooftop space (briefly depicted in the image above), and a rooftop garden “similar to the garden that Mrs. Obama planted at the White House”. An elevator will provide direct roof access.

The permitted address for the new CPL branch is 6021 S Stony Island Ave; the building will be 36 feet tall.

The parking garage

The third permit that was issued is for a partially below-grade parking garage. The roof of the garage will blend with the library’s roof, and a park. Think of Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park, both of which are built atop parking garages.

The parking structure’s permitted address is 6101 S Stony Island Ave. By footprint, the parking garage will be the largest structure in the OPC and have a maximum of 450 car parking spaces. (Comparatively, the PD 1409 document states that the site will have 50 bicycle parking spaces, which seems insufficient.)

Not yet permitted

  • The museum tower is the first main building (letter “B” on the site plan)
  • The Program, Athletic, and Activity Center is the fourth main building, and will have a gymnasium with a basketball court (letter “N” on the site plan, across from a relocated track and field)
  • The open space areas (including a “Great Lawn”), other landscaping, and promenades and park paths

The first three Obama Presidential Center permits were issued 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/the-first-three-obama-presidential-center-permits-were-issued-61f1a0a2b2 Wed, 21 Jul 2021 18:16:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Cityscape receives grant to launch a “Data Equity Cohort”]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-receives-grant-to-launch-a-data-equity-cohort-a5cb59eee1 This is an announcement about a grant-supported program we are launching.

Chicago Cityscape is a real estate information platform designed to spark and inspire more equitable development in overlooked and underinvested neighborhoods by organizing and aggregating property data, policy information, and market insights into one platform — equalizing access to information for underrepresented and resourced property professional and nonprofit organizations.

Chicago-based organizations and...

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This is an announcement about a grant-supported program we are launching.

Chicago Cityscape is a real estate information platform designed to spark and inspire more equitable development in overlooked and underinvested neighborhoods by organizing and aggregating property data, policy information, and market insights into one platform — equalizing access to information for underrepresented and resourced property professional and nonprofit organizations.

Chicago-based organizations and individuals who work to build housing and promote economic and neighborhood development should have equal access to property data, policy information, and market insights to shape a more equity-minded built environment.

From Cityscape’s perspective, this cohort includes emerging, less experienced, and mission-oriented real estate developers (especially people of color who, as a group, receive less funding and investment for their projects); non-profit organizations such as Chambers of Commerce, Special Service Areas (SSA), Community Development Corporations (CDC); housing development & advocacy organizations; and nascent land ownership models like cooperatives and land trusts.

Chicago Cityscape recently received a capacity building grant from Searle Funds through the Chicago Community Trust. With these funds we will work alongside the “focus” organizations and individuals mentioned above to:

  • We will coach focus organizations and individuals on how to leverage our current tools on the Cityscape platform — for free — in exchange for their feedback.,
  • We’re going to learn from them what needs to be added, adjusted, and improved on our platform to co-design solutions that help meet their missions.
  • We’re going to continue to reduce barriers to access data and technology in the community development process.

Steven and Casey will present at Chi Hack Night (on Zoom) on Tuesday, June 22, 2021, about new data and tools on Chicago Cityscape that have been developed to “spark and inspire more equitable development” as well as our plans for this grant-funded program.

Watch the video recording on YouTube.

Here’s how we want you to participate in this program:

  • If you identify as the leader of one of the types of focus organizations listed above, or are an individual that fits one of the descriptions, say hi to casey+focus@chicagocityscape.com.
  • If you know of an organization or person you think should join our program, email your suggestion to casey+focus@chicagocityscape.com
  • If you want to know more about Chicago Cityscape and this program immediately, schedule a discovery & demonstration session with Casey Smagala. Afterward, you may be invited to participate in our program.

Additionally, we will be hiring a designer with community engagement experience to help us develop our interview structure and synthesize feedback to help develop new products. The job notice will be posted on our website and social media in June or July.


Cityscape receives grant to launch a “Data Equity Cohort” 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/cityscape-receives-grant-to-launch-a-data-equity-cohort-a5cb59eee1 Thu, 17 Jun 2021 13:45:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[See if you have a new electoral district in 2022 with adopted redistricted maps]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/see-if-you-have-a-new-electoral-district-in-2022-with-adopted-redistricted-maps-070aefc5b4 Check if your house was redistricted

Look up your address to see if you have a new electoral district in 2022 with recently redistricted maps

Chicago Cityscape has added the newly adopted maps for the Illinois House, the Illinois Senate, the Illinois Appellate/Supreme Court, and the Cook County Board of Review. Maps of the five Illinois Appellate/Supreme Court districts and the three Cook County Board of Review districts are also brand new to the database. Our Place Snapshot Explorer now has...

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Check if your house was redistricted

Look up your address to see if you have a new electoral district in 2022 with recently redistricted maps

Chicago Cityscape has added the newly adopted maps for the Illinois House, the Illinois Senate, the Illinois Appellate/Supreme Court, and the Cook County Board of Review. Maps of the five Illinois Appellate/Supreme Court districts and the three Cook County Board of Review districts are also brand new to the database. Our Place Snapshot Explorer now has 39,562 maps.

All four Place Snapshot types are effective immediately (they were signed by Governor Pritzker last week) and will be utilized in the 2022 elections.

It’s easy to look up any address in Illinois and see what the new and old districts are, with Address Snapshot.

The screenshot shows an address in Chicago where residents will be voting in new Illinois General Assembly district races in 2022.

For example, the residents of the 2600 block of W Cullerton St in Chicago’s South Lawndale community area will be voting in new Illinois House and Illinois Senate races.

And the residents of the Holiday Lane Condos in Des Plaines are “moving” from the Cook County Board of Review’s 1st District to the 2nd District.

The screenshot shows an address in Des Plaines where residents will be voting in a new Cook County Board of Review district (possibly in 2022).

Look up your address, and on the resulting Address Snapshot report, scroll down to Surrounding Places. In the search field above the table, type in “redistricting” to see the old and potentially new districts, or click the new “Redistricted areas” filter.

Note that the Chicago City Council is undergoing a remap currently, and may be waiting until after detailed Census data is published before finalizing and adopting a redistricting map. An independent redistricting advisory commission has been formed to encourage City Council members to use a transparent remap process.


See if you have a new electoral district in 2022 with adopted redistricted maps 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/see-if-you-have-a-new-electoral-district-in-2022-with-adopted-redistricted-maps-070aefc5b4 Wed, 09 Jun 2021 10:55:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[110 property owners have told City Hall they intend to build an ADU]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/110-property-owners-have-told-city-hall-they-intend-to-build-an-adu-ab07cb22b1 Chicago’s ADU ordinance went into effect on May 1, 2021, and the Chicago Department of Housing launched intake form the following Monday (May 3). As well as a new website. A full week has gone by so I asked DOH how many property owners have, so far, submitted the form.

Via Chicago, one of tens of ADU service providers listed in our directory, created this rendering of a backyard house for a potential client. Read the description of this project below.

The intake form is a required step...

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Chicago’s ADU ordinance went into effect on May 1, 2021, and the Chicago Department of Housing launched intake form the following Monday (May 3). As well as a new website. A full week has gone by so I asked DOH how many property owners have, so far, submitted the form.

Via Chicago, one of tens of ADU service providers listed in our directory, created this rendering of a backyard house for a potential client. Read the description of this project below.

The intake form is a required step before submitting a building permit application to the Chicago Department of Buildings, and it’s there for two main reasons: To verify the eligibility of the property, and for DOH to remind the applicant about the affordable requirements. It has no closing date, so there is no rush.

110 applications have been submitted from Monday, May 3, to this morning, representing at least 123 units. Here’s the breakdown of how many additional dwelling units owners are proposing, and where:

  • The majority of applications are for interior apartments (70 of 110, 64 percent). That means property owners have proposed 40 backyard houses in one week.
  • Six applications for interior apartments are for two apartments, and two applications are for three or more interior apartments. All eight applicants will have to rent 50 percent of those apartments at an affordable rate, which will be set by the housing department each year. A building must have five existing units before it can propose two or more interior apartments.

There are five pilot areas where new ADUs are allowed (click on the link to see a map of each pilot area):

  1. Northwest area (47 applications were submitted, 3 of which have at least one affordable unit)
  2. North area (43, 2 of which have at least one affordable unit)
  3. South (14, 3 of which have at least one affordable unit)
  4. West (5)
  5. Southeast (1)

Alder Ramirez-Rosa is probably excited about that, since nearly 80 percent of the 35th Ward is in the Northwest pilot area and he had wanted the entirety of his ward to be eligible for an ADU; presumably most of the 47 applications are in the 35th Ward.

Part of the ADU ordinance are two more provisions to increase the number of affordable ADUs in Chicago: one is a grant program to get new interior apartments built, and legalize existing ones through whatever modifications need to be made to make them compliant with the building code; the second is setting aside some of the Low Income Housing Trust Fund vouchers (which are separate from CHA vouchers, and used only for households with very low incomes) to be spent on rent at ADUs rather than other apartment types.

The Department of Housing gave me this statement about the grant program:

“The Department of Housing is working to make sure that the ADU policy is equitably benefiting every community in a pilot zone. DOH will provide financial support for low and moderate-income homeowners making up to 80% AMI to build new ADUs in each of the 5 pilot areas. These grants will help qualified applicants cover the cost to prepare drawings and a scope of work for a building permit, and to complete the construction of an ADU project.
More information will be available when applications open in June 2021. DOH will continue to monitor application data and adjust outreach accordingly to achieve the most equitable results.”

Upcoming ADU events

Need to learn more about building an ADU in Chicago? The Departments of Housing and Buildings are hosting six webinars in May and June, con un webinar en español el lunes 24 de mayo, de 6:30 a 7:30 p.m. (inscribirse).

Via Chicago’s backyard house design

Cristina Gallo, architect and owner of Via Chicago Architects × Diseñadores, wrote to me:

With “Switch” we focused on how to create an accessible, ground floor ADU, which is very difficult under the constraints of the current ADU ordinance. Two of the most common motivations for homeowners wanting to build an ADU are “aging in place” and “multi-generational living,” commonly referred to as a “granny flat” for elderly parents.
But these living situations are challenging when the apartment is located up a full flight of stairs, over a garage. We were able to accomplish this by starting with a lot that has a smaller-than-usual principal home, and we elected not to build a garage. Providing two at-grade, uncovered parking spots eliminates that from our footprint calculations (limited to 60% of the required rear setback area) and lets us build a comfortable one-bedroom, 460 s.f. apartment in front of the parking spaces while still providing plenty of rear yard open space.

Editor’s note: I have pointed out many times that the ordinance, as adopted, discourages accessible backyard houses (which essentially requires an at-grade structure) on standard-width lots by not allowing a reduction in existing required parking. A previous version of the ordinance would have allowed a parking space to be removed for some properties, freeing up space to have a parking space and an at-grade backyard house side-by-side.


110 property owners have told City Hall they intend to build an ADU 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/110-property-owners-have-told-city-hall-they-intend-to-build-an-adu-ab07cb22b1 Tue, 11 May 2021 15:34:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[New maps, data, and filters were added for affordable housing developers and advocates]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/new-maps-data-and-filters-were-added-for-affordable-housing-developers-and-advocates-7acea9e989 Chicago Cityscape is rounding out its maps showing the location and type of affordable housing beyond our existing database of only affordable housing developments in Chicago that we added in 2019. Specifically, this comprises housing developments across Illinois that are subsidized funded in part by tax credits. We also made some updates in Property Finder and Incentives Checker.

The Emmett Street apartments, under construction in Logan Square, are partially funded by $10.4 million in Low...
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Chicago Cityscape is rounding out its maps showing the location and type of affordable housing beyond our existing database of only affordable housing developments in Chicago that we added in 2019. Specifically, this comprises housing developments across Illinois that are subsidized funded in part by tax credits. We also made some updates in Property Finder and Incentives Checker.

The Emmett Street apartments, under construction in Logan Square, are partially funded by $10.4 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity (read about the rest of the project’s funding stack). But they won’t appear on our map because the data includes only projects placed in service in or before 2018. Photo: Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp., the developer.

The new maps and data help our members — particularly those who are affordable housing developers (including public housing authorities, non-profit, and those that develop mixed-income housing), tenant advocates, and elected officials — know where affordable housing exists.

For example, the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) asks funding applicants to show that their proposed development would not contribute to an over-concentration of affordable housing, especially in areas with fewer amenities, jobs, and transit.

One of the values of Chicago Cityscape is that data does not explain itself. We try to explain the background of every dataset and some of the policy choices and modify descriptions and visualizations based on member feedback.

Showing housing funded by Low Income Housing Tax Credits is part of the new affordable housing maps. That program is abbreviated to “LIHTC” (pronounced lie-tech), and it refers to a federal program to let businesses offset their tax liability by investing in affordable housing and reducing their potential taxes owed. This is explained after you click “Load LIHTC…” in any Place Snapshot in Illinois (for example, look up North Lawndale).

Look up any Place Snapshot in Illinois and scroll down to the “Affordable housing” section to load the map and downloadable spreadsheet of local LIHTC-funded developments.

An important aspect of LIHTC funding is a development’s attribute “year placed in service” — this is displayed in the spreadsheet that accompanies the map of LIHTC-funded developments. LIHTC for a given development lasts 30 years and the first developments turned 30 four years. It’s the number one program for funding affordable housing in the country, helping to fund 86,892 homes from 1986 to 2015 in Illinois.

When a development reaches the end of the period, there’s a potential to lose that subsidized affordable housing if the LIHTC is not renewed or another funding source isn’t found. There are around 37 developments in Illinois, representing at least 1,181 apartments, that will turn 30 this year.

Another option is for the tenants or a non-profit organization to create a cooperative or trust to take ownership of the development. Next City discussed a report from 2018 that describes the impact across the country as an increasing number of apartments reach the end of their 30-year terms.

🙀 Want a demonstration of these features and a free trial? We’ll contact you if you fill out this form, or reply to this newsletter.

More updates for our members who develop affordable housing:

  • Updated IHDA Opportunity Areas, in both Place Snapshot’s and Address Snapshot’s Incentives Checker, including IHDA’s reports about the affordable housing market share in each overlapping Census tract.
Use Incentives Checker to locate IHDA’s “Opportunity Areas” within a Place Snapshot, including Personal Places that you draw yourself.
  • Updated Qualified Census Tracts (QCT) and Difficult Development Areas (DDA)
  • Added a map of Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) developments within each Place Snapshot
  • Added Opportunity Area and QCT filters to Property Finder within each Place Snapshot (to help with finding properties that fit the parameters of Qualified Allocation Plans for locating subsidized affordable housing).
Two new “QAP” filters in Place Snapshot’s Property Finder.

Chicago’s ARO has been revised

Note that Chicago City Council adopted major revisions to the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) last week, which take effect for building permit applications submitted on and after October 1, 2021.

The Near North, Near West, and Milwaukee Corridor pilot zones will go away, replaced by three tiers that cover larger areas (which means there are fewer gaps between zones and it won’t skip over gentrifying areas). The Pilsen and Little Village pilot zones, however, will remain in place until the end of 2023.

Chicago Cityscape has updated Address Snapshot lookups, which highlight relevant ARO geographies and their associated rules. View the map of the new geographies and how they’re listed on the Address Snapshot’s automated Zoning Assessment feature.


New maps, data, and filters were added for affordable housing developers and advocates 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/new-maps-data-and-filters-were-added-for-affordable-housing-developers-and-advocates-7acea9e989 Wed, 28 Apr 2021 23:33:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Find historical imagery for Cook County addresses]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/find-historical-imagery-for-cook-county-addresses-17092bbb01 It’s not well known, but Cook County obtains aerial imagery of the whole county every year or two. These are obtained from cameras on planes, and the images are higher resolution than those taken from satellites.

This land is the former Grace Abbott Homes, at approximately 1500 W Roosevelt Rd. We took the one on the left from our hot air balloon* last week. The image on the right is from Cook County’s 1998 imagery, which was taken using black & white film and in some respects has...
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It’s not well known, but Cook County obtains aerial imagery of the whole county every year or two. These are obtained from cameras on planes, and the images are higher resolution than those taken from satellites.

This land is the former Grace Abbott Homes, at approximately 1500 W Roosevelt Rd. We took the one on the left from our hot air balloon* last week. The image on the right is from Cook County’s 1998 imagery, which was taken using black & white film and in some respects has greater detail than color images.

Chicago Cityscape offers everyone who looks up an Address Snapshot for a Cook County location an easy switch to see historic imagery going back to 1998. That may not seem that old, but a lot of land has changed in the last 23 years. The difference is especially noticeable if you look at where all of Chicago Housing Authority buildings were demolished, some of which I’ve featured in these “before and after” images above.

You can switch between 1998 and 2019, and there is historic imagery from 10 intervening years. Here’s how to do it:

When you look up an Address Snapshot on Chicago Cityscape, click on “Map tools” to find additional ways to manipulate the map.

(1) Look up an address, (2) then click “Map tools” below the map, and (3) finally click “Historic imagery”.

Just south of the grassy field of the former Grace Abbott Homes is a new sports field and fieldhouse for Jane Addams Park.

Left: Looking southeast towards the new fieldhouse and sports field at Jane Addams Park; right: the same location, photographed from a plane hired by Cook County in 2019.

Find historical imagery for Cook County addresses 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/find-historical-imagery-for-cook-county-addresses-17092bbb01 Tue, 27 Apr 2021 17:18:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[See Carmin’s future backyard ADU]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/see-carmin-s-future-backyard-adu-169b784f29 I’ve talked about Carmin Ballou a couple of times on this blog. Her parents moved in with her, her partner, and their two school-age children right before the COVID-19 pandemic started to upend lives in March 2020. Many combined and multi-generational families yearn for more space, including Carmin’s.

At first, the originally proposed ADU ordinance’s treatment of certain residential zoning districts was going to require that Carmin and her partner obtain a “special use permit”...

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I’ve talked about Carmin Ballou a couple of times on this blog. Her parents moved in with her, her partner, and their two school-age children right before the COVID-19 pandemic started to upend lives in March 2020. Many combined and multi-generational families yearn for more space, including Carmin’s.

At first, the originally proposed ADU ordinance’s treatment of certain residential zoning districts was going to require that Carmin and her partner obtain a “special use permit” through a process that would have resulted in hiring an attorney and appearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Thankfully, that version of the ordinance was modified to include RS-2 zoning districts “as of right”, and fortunately, the ordinance’s pilot area included her house. Since winter started, Carmin and her architect, Doug Sandberg, have been working on a design for a small one-bedroom apartment over a new garage. They might be far enough along on May 1, 2021, to apply for a building permit. (May 1 is a Saturday, so a plan reviewer wouldn’t get around to seeing the application until the following week.)

And they’re revealing the first schematic drawings here on Chicago Cityscape.

Consider some of the building parameters set by the ADU ordinance that constrain the design process:

  • The backyard house’s footprint cannot exceed the lesser of 60 percent of the rear setback or 700 s.f. For Carmin’s oversized lot (it’s 30' wide rather than 25' wide), that puts the maximum at 624 s.f.
  • The backyard house cannot exceed 22 feet in height. This includes any appurtenances and structures, like solar panels.
  • One side needs to have 3' clear and open to the sky. The other side will be dictated by the Chicago Building Code.
Left: A schematic design of the east elevation (looking west from the alley). Center: A schematic design of the upper-level one-bedroom apartment. Right: Site plan showing the footprint dimensions as well as features required by the zoning code and the permit review.

In the current design, the kitchen and living room share an open floor plan, there’s in-unit stacked laundry, a linen closet in the bathroom, and a 133 s.f. bedroom. Additionally, a window seat overlooks the backyard. Material choices are still being mulled over; the window bay would likely be wood, and flush panel metal sidings are a possible choice for the rest of the cladding.

The stairway is enclosed and accessed from the gangway. To maximize interior space, architects have the option in the zoning code to have an exterior stair in the rear setback, where it won’t count against footprint and floor area. The mix of elderly tenants and Chicago winters made that a no-go for this backyard house.

On the ground floor, a new two-car garage — two spaces are required by RS-2 zoning — has patio doors so it’s easy to move play and party equipment in and out of garage storage.

What will it cost? Carmin said they haven’t asked for any bids from contractors yet. Her family will be paying for it in part by cashing out of a recent refinance (“this made sense given the low rates”). About the rest, she said, “maybe a HELOC (home equity line of credit) or draining savings”.

Carmin mentioned that a staffer at 47th Ward Alder Matt Martin’s office had asked about financing. While she feels fortunate to have options, she encouraged Martin and other public officials to support programs for others without access to credit. Even with a small footprint of the ADU, new constructions remains expensive.

Alder Martin is hosting three ADU webinars, starting with the first on Tuesday, April 6, at 6:30 PM. I will be speaking, alongside representatives from City Hall.

We are currently gathering information about funding & financing options through this survey. If you’re calling banks, let us know which ones you’ve called and what they said. If you’re still figuring out what money sources are right for you, tell us what you’re considering. All responses are confidential.

Carmin added, “We would probably wait a bit to start to save more if needed rather than sacrifice design.”

The Chicago Cityscape ADU Portal has a directory of ADU service providers (architects, builders, and consultants), an FAQ, and a lookup to see if your property is in an eligible location.


See Carmin’s future backyard ADU 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/see-carmin-s-future-backyard-adu-169b784f29 Sat, 27 Mar 2021 08:20:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[A new “off-site” ARO townhouse development opens on the West Side]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/a-new-off-site-aro-townhouse-development-opens-on-the-west-side-9fb7daf03e Harrison Row Townhomes is a new group of affordable, townhouses for sale that were built to satisfy an ARO requirement for Structured Development. Eventually, there will be 50 units. The land was previously vacant.

Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, or ARO, requires new housing developments with 10 or more units that receive a zoning change (or city money or land) to provide 10 percent (or more, depending on the location) of the units as affordable. The default rule is that some...

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Harrison Row Townhomes is a new group of affordable, townhouses for sale that were built to satisfy an ARO requirement for Structured Development. Eventually, there will be 50 units. The land was previously vacant.

Chicago’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance, or ARO, requires new housing developments with 10 or more units that receive a zoning change (or city money or land) to provide 10 percent (or more, depending on the location) of the units as affordable. The default rule is that some of the units must be built within the development, and others can be built somewhere else — off-site , within a maximum distance away— or not built at all and an in lieu fee is paid instead.

The new townhouses are at the corner of Congress Parkway and Francisco Avenue. Each townhouse also has a small rear yard and an access to a detached garage. Provided by Taylor Johnson.

The seven homes start at $229,000, and have three bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms in 1,200 s.f. over three stories, and access to a detached garage.

CTA buses are a block away on Harrison Street to the Illinois Medical District and downtown, and on Kedzie Avenue, where there’s also a Blue Line station (see our Transportation Snapshot for this location).

Aside from this being one of the rare off-site ARO for-sale housing developments, there is one other significant aspect.

Kevin Brinson principal, Fain’s Development LLC; Annette Shelton, Fain’s Development and Baird & Warner; Almarie Ratcliff; Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr.; Mike Drew, founding principal of Structured Development; Quentin Addison, principal, Fain’s Development LLC. Provided by Taylor Johnson.

The townhouses were co-developed by Structured Development — a major developer, responsible for the New City apartments and mall in Lincoln Park, among others — and Fain’s Development. The next phase will have 26 townhouses and be led by Fain’s Development.

From a press release, “Fain’s Development, LLC, a community-based minority development firm led by Kevin Brinson and Quentin ‘Q’ Addison, will act as a full joint venture partner on a portion of the next phase after receiving mentorship during the development of phase one. Like Structured, Fain’s will share in the fee revenues and profit and losses while gaining the foundation to develop projects independently in the future.”

The townhouses are triggered by Structured Development’s Big Deahl development, two blocks east of the New City apartments and mall. That location is in the Near North Pilot Area and thus cannot pay an in lieu fee and must build all of its required affordable housing.

Big Deahl, also called The Shops at Big Deahl, is a phased development. A climbing gym was permitted two years ago and several new residential skyscrapers were approved by Chicago City Council in January.

Three of the seven units are under contract. Photos by Steven Vance.

Since they are affordable dwellings, potential buyers must earn less than 120 percent of the area median income. The Chicago Community Land Trust is in charge of verifying buyers’ incomes. The land trust also has a deed covenant on each townhouse’s recordings to ensure permanent affordability.

When I visited the site on Friday afternoon, there were signs indicating that three of the seven units were already under contract.


A new “off-site” ARO townhouse development opens on the West Side 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/a-new-off-site-aro-townhouse-development-opens-on-the-west-side-9fb7daf03e Fri, 26 Mar 2021 14:34:00 -0500 Steven Vance
<![CDATA[Newly approved demolition fee pilot program is a positive step to stem the loss of 2 to 4 flats]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/newly-approved-demolition-fee-pilot-program-is-a-positive-step-to-stem-the-loss-of-2-to-4-flats-dd627da5e5 By Chas Sirridge

On Monday, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council approved by a 20–11 vote a new pilot program that would impose a surcharge on demolition permits of $15,000 for a detached house, townhouse, or two flat (defined as two units on a single lot with a common wall/floor/ceiling), and $5,000 per unit for multi-unit buildings in two pilot areas:

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By Chas Sirridge

On Monday, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council approved by a 20–11 vote a new pilot program that would impose a surcharge on demolition permits of $15,000 for a detached house, townhouse, or two flat (defined as two units on a single lot with a common wall/floor/ceiling), and $5,000 per unit for multi-unit buildings in two pilot areas:

Today, the pilot program received full council approval by a 37-12 vote.

Many small apartment buildings in Logan Square, Humboldt Park (pictured), and Pilsen have been converted to single units or torn down and replaced by single units, reducing the availability of “naturally occurring affordable housing”. Photo by Steven Vance.

Background on the demolition surcharge ordinance

The ordinance builds upon two minimum-density ordinances passed earlier this year which create special overlay districts to which the boundaries of the demolition surcharge correspond. In the Pilsen Multi-Unit Preservation District, by-right construction of single family homes and two flats is disallowed in RT-4 and all RM-4.5 to 6 districts, unless more than 50 percent of zoning lots on that block contain single family homes or two flats. In the 606 Preponderance of the Block District, by-right construction of single family homes is eliminated on blocks in RS-3 and RT 3.5 districts where more than 50 percent of zoning lots have been legally improved with multi-family buildings. In RS-3 districts in the pilot area, the minimum lot area per unit is reduced from 2,500 to 1,500 square feet, to allow by-right construction of (two unit) two flats on a standard (3,125 square foot) Chicago lot.

Exemptions to the demolition surcharge are allowed if a building has been found to be unsafe or if the demolished building is to be replaced by one in which 50 percent of units are legally restricted to households making no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

Funds generated from the surcharge will be deposited in the Affordable Housing Opportunity Funds and then transferred to the Chicago Community Land Trust.

The pilot program will run through April 1, 2022;150 days before the pilot’s expiration, the Department of Housing will make a report to the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate on the observed effects of the pilot.

Why the demolition surcharge is needed

This pilot program has been a long time in the making. A much more aggressive ordinance, the result of a collaborative effort with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) was introduced in mid 2017 by Alds. Rosa (35), Maldonado (26), and then 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno, in recognition of market/development pressures following the opening of the 606. These new pilots have the potential to be innovative tools that can be modified and built upon to protect Chicago’s large stock of small multi-family “naturally occurring” affordable housing.

The loss of two and three flats in Chicago and its implication for Chicago’s housing affordability is the subject of the masters project I am currently working on as a Masters of Urban Planning student at UIC.

The following is a letter I submitted as a written comment to the Committee on Finance on the importance of preserving this housing stock in preventing the displacement of Latinx families from the Logan Square, Avondale, and Hermosa communities:

Dear members of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance,

My name is Chas Sirridge. I am a Masters of Urban Planning student at UIC currently working on a masters project about the importance of preserving Chicago’s two and three flats. I would like to share some preliminary data I’ve collected for my project that I feel speaks to the importance of protecting these housing types, through policies like the Demolition Surcharge Tax Pilot Program. All data, unless otherwise noted, is from the 2012 and 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Surveys (PUMS).

Two to four unit buildings make up just under a third (~30 percent) of the city’s housing units — ~350,000 units. Just under one-third (~32 percent) of Chicago’s population live in two to four unit buildings — ~820,000 people. ~Forty percent of Chicago’s renter population live in two and three flats.

The vast majority (nearly 80 percent) of residents of two and three flats are people of color. Latinx people make up the largest racial/ethnic group in two and three flats at ~40 percent. Just under 30 percent of residents of two and three flats are Black.

The majority of two and three flats are what planners refer to as “naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH),” meaning that they rent for less than market rate despite receiving no government subsidy. The recent Citywide Affordable Rental Housing Analysis by DOH and DPD found that 26 percent of units in Chicago are NOAH, compared to only 10 percent that are legally restricted. A 2016 profile of Chicago’s multifamily housing market by Rachel Scheu and Margaret Garascia of Elevate Energy found that 70 percent of units in 2–4 unit buildings (more than 250,000 units) fit this description. A 2020 report by Miriam Zuk, Diane Limas, Charisma Thapa, and Andy Greer for the Metropolitan Planning Council found that nearly 40 percent of the city’s affordable housing units are in 2–4 unit buildings.

Two and three flats are not only an important source of NOAH but an important source of family-sized NOAH. Nearly a third (30 percent) of housing units with three or more bedrooms in Chicago are in 2 to 4 unit buildings; more than half (57 percent) of rental units. Almost 60 percent of affordable 3+ bedroom units are in two flats and three flats.

But the number of units in 2 to 4 flats has been in decline over the past decade. From 2009 to 2019, the number of units in 2 to 4's decreased by ~40,000 units — from nearly 400,000 units in 2009 to just over 350,000 in 2019 — a 10 percent decrease.

During this period the population in two to fours decreased by ~80,000 people — a difference of nearly 10 percent. When broken down by race, only the Black and Latinx populations saw a net decrease. The Latinx population declined by ~35,000 people, or just under 10 percent. Meanwhile the Black population declined by nearly 60,000 people — nearly 20 percent. The number of families with children declined by almost 20 percent — or ~20,000 families.

In the Logan Square, Avondale, Hermosa communities, just under half of the ~56,000 housing units are in two and three flats. Just over 60 percent of Latinx residents live in two and three flats. More than 40 percent of the neighborhood’s family-sized (3+ bedroom) units are in 2 to 4’s; 76 percent of family-sized rental units, housing 45 percent of families with children in these communities (SFH’s house the next largest share at 38 percent, followed by 5 to 9 unit buildings at 12 percent).

From 2012 to 2019, the number of units in two and three flats in these communities has declined by ~6 percent — just over 1,500 units. During this time, the Latinx population in two and three flats fell almost 35 percent — a difference of almost 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, there have been 2,886 new units built since 2012. Of these units, half are in SFH’s and just under a third are in 50+ unit high rises. Rents in family-sized units built since 2012 are $700 more on average than those in buildings built before 1939. The average value of a new SFH is ~$1.3 million — twice that of a SFH built before 1939.

This data, in my opinion, demonstrates the necessity of preserving the stock of old two and three flats if we want to address the displacement of working families. The loss of old two and three flats threatens to exclude families who can’t afford to buy from neighborhoods like Logan Square, Hermosa, and Avondale, as well as neighborhoods like North Center, Lakeview, West Town, and Pilsen.

I’d be more than happy to share more of my research, discuss this research further, answer any questions, or discuss potential solutions further should any policy makers wish to do so. I can be reached at csirri2@uic.edu.


Newly approved demolition fee pilot program is a positive step to stem the loss of 2 to 4 flats 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/newly-approved-demolition-fee-pilot-program-is-a-positive-step-to-stem-the-loss-of-2-to-4-flats-dd627da5e5 Wed, 24 Mar 2021 14:04:00 -0500 Chas Sirridge
<![CDATA[Chicago developers are constructing bigger wood residential buildings due to changes in the code]]> https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-developers-are-constructing-bigger-wood-residential-buildings-due-to-changes-in-the-code-10df6e19f6
Rendering of a wood frame 4-flat (two duplex units side by side) that was permitted in two locations in Woodlawn in February (PMPC Architects)

Nearly two years ago I co-wrote a blog post exclaiming one of the significant features of Chicago’s new building code: bigger wood frame buildings. This doesn’t mean that developers in Chicago can start erecting the kind of 50 to 150-unit “stick built” apartment complexes popular in California, Nevada, and Utah (see this new construction in...

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Rendering of a wood frame 4-flat (two duplex units side by side) that was permitted in two locations in Woodlawn in February (PMPC Architects)

Nearly two years ago I co-wrote a blog post exclaiming one of the significant features of Chicago’s new building code: bigger wood frame buildings. This doesn’t mean that developers in Chicago can start erecting the kind of 50 to 150-unit “stick built” apartment complexes popular in California, Nevada, and Utah (see this new construction in Salt Lake City).

But it does mean that a space-limited 3-flat is no longer the maximum size, as it was in the pre-2019 Chicago Building Code. Since its adoption, a handful of building permits have been issued for bigger wood frame multi-unit buildings.

This is important because wood is cheaper and faster to build with.

Except, at the moment, lumber prices are extremely high due (doubled on some days, according to softwood market futures) to production issues largely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Associated General Contractors of America “asked Biden to urge domestic lumber producers to ramp up production to address growing shortages, as well as to make the crafting of a new softwood lumber agreement with Canada a top priority of his administration” (Construction Dive).

What the 2019 Chicago Building Code allows

In the old building code, the top floor of a 3-flat couldn’t be larger than 800 s.f., which meant that the building (depicted below) was the biggest wood frame construction multi-unit that could be built. (The standards are in the old code’s Type IV-A construction type.)

This 3-flat on Sawyer just north of the Bloomingdale Trail has the maximum size third floor allowed by the pre-2019 Chicago Building Code. It was designed by Landon Bone Baker for LUCHA’s Tierra Linda multi-site apartment development in Humboldt Park and Logan Square.
In the current CBC, a third story is allowed in a small residential building (occupancy class A) of Type IV-A construction if it is limited to 800 s.f. in area and the first and second stories are limited to 1,600 s.f. in area (13-48-030, note “h”).
The [previous] CBC allows up to 4,000 s.f. of building area in Type IV-A construction of a multi-story residential building (13-48-080); in single-story residential buildings, the limit is 5,000 s.f. The [newly adopted] CBC’s Type V-A limits area to 5,000 s.f. in a small residential building without sprinklers regardless of the number of stories. via MAP Strategies

In Chicago’s new building code, which adopted International Building Code 2018 edition, Type V-A dictates wood frame construction standards and removes that area limitation on the top floor allowing. The code still has area and height limitations on wood frame residential buildings but it’s now possible to build 10s of units using the new Chicago Building Code — with sprinklers, of course.

Let’s see some examples

PMPC Architects, founded by Prashanth Mahakali, obtained permits for two 4-flats last month (see the rendering at the top of the post). Both buildings will be in the Woodlawn community area. One of the lots has been vacant since between 1972 and 1983, and the other has been vacant since between 1988 and 1998 (Historic Aerials for the win).

Each of the three and a half story 4-flats has two duplex units, side by side. Each unit has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and are identically sized with 1,940 s.f. of floor area. Each building — with about 8,000 s.f. of floor area — also has an NFPA 13R-compliant sprinkler system throughout the building.

Prashanth said, “Even with the lumber price increase, on a very conservative basis, this building will have at least over $250,000 in price savings by using wood and siding instead of masonry. This includes savings from building material, labor and delivery.”

The first “Type V-A” permits I noticed came out last summer, for three 6-flats, but the owner declined to be acknowledged in this post. All other Type V-A permits have been for single-detached houses and 2 or 3-flats.

Go bigger

Rendering of three 4-story wood frame apartment buildings, each with 16 units (Bailey Edward Architects)

Wood frame residential buildings can be even bigger than four or six units. The next example of new construction wood frame multi-unit residences are three apartment buildings being built in the Near North Side (also on vacant land). Each Type V-A wood building has 16 apartments over four stories!

The development, called Schiller Place, was designed by Bailey Edward Architects, for Structured Development (which built the New City mall and apartments across the street) and Evergreen. GMA is constructing it and posted photos of the foundation formwork last week.

Are you developing a wood frame multi-unit residential building?


Chicago developers are constructing bigger wood residential buildings due to changes in the code 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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https://www.chicagocityscape.com/blog/chicago-developers-are-constructing-bigger-wood-residential-buildings-due-to-changes-in-the-code-10df6e19f6 Tue, 02 Mar 2021 15:19:00 -0600 Steven Vance