By La Risa Lynch
It’s the last and considerably the biggest parcel of lakefront property to be developed on the city’s south side creating nearly 140,000 jobs and more than 13,000 housing units.
But residents of the southeast side communities that ring the Lakeside Development want a community benefits agreement (CBA) to ensure they are not cut out of jobs or displaced by possible gentrification that could come to the South Chicago community.
“Our goal is to prevent gentrification…,” said Amalia NietoGomez, executive director of Alliance of the Southeast (ASE), a member organization of Coalition for a Lakeside CBA, a partnership of 17 community organizations pushing for the agreement.
“This CBA is important because we want the folks that have stayed in the community, that have built the community continue to be able to live in the community as the development proceeds,” NietoGomez added.
Claretian Associates’ executive director Angela Hurlock agreed. She said it’s understandable that taxes will go up when the area gets better, but there must be some concessions for long term residents who “stayed the tided when it wasn’t the best place to live.”
“It’s not about barring people from coming. It’s not about not having mixed income … but how do we make sure that it is not too much of one and not enough of the other,” Hurlock said.
The coalition held a standing room only meeting Thursday, Sept 25 where more than 300 people pack the basement of Pilgrim Baptist Church, 3235 W. 91st St. The meeting was to gauge community support for the benefits agreement. Many residents attending the meeting have lived on the southeast side for years, even generations and want a community benefits agreement.
“We need to have a say in what happens here…” said Sue Garza, who has six generations of family members living in 10th ward. “…The decisions that have been made here we’ve never been given a sit at the table.”
Spanning an area larger than the Loop, the 600 acre Lakeside Development sits of the former South Works steel site that closed in 1992. It stretches from 79th to 91st streets and is split between the 7th and 10th wards.
The construction of a Mariano’s Fresh Market grocery store could jump start the multiphase project with an estimated 1600 construction jobs to be created in the first phase. Another component of the $4 billion project was building a two-mile extension of south Lake Shore Drive on the site, which opened last year.
The project will take up to 40 years to complete, but when finish will be a mixed-used development of residential, retail, commercial or industrial space. The site also includes a new high school, new park lands and a 1,500 slip marina.
The coalition has been working on a community benefits agreement for nearly two years. It surveyed residents to determine what the agreement should include. The survey found that 76 percent of respondents favored jobs, especially for ex-offenders, 61 percent favored educational investments and community improvements and housing rounded out the list with 65 percent.
The agreement also seeks tax relief, environment protection and support for affordable housing both rental and home ownership. The coalition wants a written agreement with the project’s developer, Dan McCaffery, CEO and chair of McCaffery Interests which is developing the site with U.S. Steel Corp. The coalition hopes to have the agreement in place by year’s end.
The agreement is crucial since tax payer dollars to the tune of $119 million in TIF (tax increment financing) funds was approved for the development with more than $96 million going to McCaffery for public infrastructure, NietoGomez said. But she was critical of the paltry $1 million allocated for job training.
“This project is the largest in the region. There’s no way that $1million for jobs and training will cover everything ‑‑ not even close,” NietoGomez said, noting that the development will be the single largest source of jobs on the south side for years. “Our area needs those jobs.”
The unemployment rate for South Chicago and South Shore mirror each other at 17 percent while 31 percent of residents in both communities live below the poverty level. The state’s unemployment rate is 6.7 percent. The agreement proposes 25 percent of full-time hires go to community residents for the first two years and increases to 51 percent thereafter.
“We want the building jobs, the construction jobs. We want the plumber [jobs]. We want the electrician [jobs]. We want to train our people,” said Sylvia Ortega, a 50 year resident of South Chicago and president of the Bush Homeowners and Tenants Association.
Dan McCaffery, who was invited to the meeting but could not attend, said he support a benefits agreement. He signed one for the redevelopment of the old Children’s Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park. But he said he worked with the aldermen and established community groups to sign that agreement.
He doesn’t think that is happening with the Lakeside development. He has met with coalition, but McCaffery said it doesn’t seem to be representative of the two communities affected by the development. He said he prefers groups work with the aldermen to draft an agreement agreeable to everyone.
“We have many people calling us and saying those guys don’t represent me,” McCaffery said. “It would be more affective if it came from the alderman’s office. It shouldn’t be coming from one or two or three or 20 people in the community. We have two wards there. I don’t want to find myself agreeing to something the aldermen don’t support,” McCaffery said.
Fourth District Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore is optimistic that a CBA will happen. Moore was the only elected official to attend the meeting. U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, State Reps. Barbara Flynn Curry and Christian Mitchell sent representatives. No aldermen attended the meeting.
Moore said an agreement is needed so to not have a repeat of the Dan Ryan reconstruction project. Moore said it lacked minority participation and didn’t have a lot of local workers on the project.
“We do not want to be left out of this community and the development that is going on here,” Moore said. “There is going to be a CBA. There are not going to build this without a CBA