The construction of a Target store and a new housing development is proceeding at the Wilson Yard site, even as a lawsuit threatens to derail the project and opinion is split on whether the plan will be good for the neighborhood.
The development, located on Broadway and Montrose in Uptown, has been the subject of intense scrutiny ever since a fire destroyed a CTA facility there in 1996.
In 2001, the area was designated a tax increment financing district, or TIF, which enabled property taxes to help fund the redevelopment.
Fix Wilson Yard, a group of neighborhood residents opposed to the development, filed suit against the city in December 2008 to halt construction. A court hearing in the case is scheduled next week, and the group is holding a fundraiser on Saturday.
Meanwhile, plans for the Target store continue. Delia McLinden, Senior Communications Specialist for Target, confirmed that the store is scheduled to open on site in the fall of 2010.
And debate continues on everything from the scope of the development to who would live in the proposed housing.
Residents involved in Fix Wilson Yard did not return phone or email messages.
But the group's website alleges that the redevelopment plan "centers on a failed housing model, funded in part by a whopping $52M in tax increment financing dollars, that will erase our past progress and become a new slum for Uptown."
The website also references changes made to development plans over time, stating that the original plan included mixed-income housing, a movie theater, a Target and a $35 million TIF commitment from taxpayers.
Now, the plan has changed to "178 units of 100% low-income housing....no movie theaters, and no confirmation that Target is coming," the group states.
Alderman Helen Shiller (D-46) disagrees, claiming that Fix Wilson Yard has mischaracterized the development.
"They're vehemently opposed to affordable housing," she says, arguing that the definition of "low-income" housing cited by Fix Wilson Yard is set to the metropolitan area median income. In fact the threshold for eligibility at the development would include almost half of city residents.
Shiller claims that Fix Wilson Yard has described the development like (public housing development) "Cabrini Green, with thousands of units." In fact, she says, the development will consist of two apartment buildings, six or seven stories high, and will also include the Target and an additional 25,000 square feet of retail space.
Some neighborhood organizations welcome the development at Wilson Yard.
Jamiko Rose, at the Organization of the NorthEast (ONE), says that the development is a "model of what good development in a community looks like," and that there was an "extensive process developing Wilson Yard."
Mark Kaplan, from Northside Action for Justice (NAJ) also voices support, citing a referendum held last November in which 65 percent of voters supported the use of tax increment financing funds for affordable housing.
"Any position that gets that kind of a mandate shows that a clear majority of the community's residents support it," he says.
Kaplan also says, "In 2000, there was another TIF proposed at Broadway and Lawrence to convert Goldblatt's into high-end condos... The same people [at Fix Wilson Yard were] almost unanimously in support of that Lawrence TIF."
The hearing in the Fix Wilson Yard lawsuit is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, May 19, at 50 W. Washington, Room 2308. It is open to the public.