Chicago news roundup: Pilsen residents press for affordable housing, toy giveaways spark holiday joy and more

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At a public meeting earlier this month, city officials showed residents some preliminary sketches for what a housing development at this vacant lot in Pilsen could look like.

Indira Khera/WBEZ

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a five-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will see areas of blowing snow and a high near 33 degrees, wind chill values as low as -10 and wind gusts as high as 30 mph — expect 1 to 3 inches of snow. Snow is also expected tonight with a low near -7, wind chill values as low as -34, gusts as high as 45 mph and new snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible. Expect widespread blowing snow tomorrow with a high near -1 degrees, wind chill values as low as -35 and wind gusts as high as 45 mph.

Editor’s note: if you’re a print subscriber, the oncoming storm could impact newspaper delivery for the next few days. You can read the E-paper as part of your subscription here.

Top story

In battle against gentrification, Pilsen residents press for affordable housing

Felipe Luna walks down 18th Street, sharing stories from his childhood — like how he used to flatten pennies on the train tracks that ran through Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood.

The street is dotted with bars, restaurants and shops — some old, some new. But as one walks east, the bustle ends at a large, vacant lot at 18th and Peoria, framed by train tracks, the high-end buildings of University Village rising in the background.

Luna grew up across the street, in the house where his father still lives. He gestures across the empty parcel. To him, University Village looks out of place, from “a different world” than the lot, Luna says. Done right, whatever ends up on the vacant land could bridge that visual disconnect. As the property moved among developers over the past 20 years, residents pushed for affordable housing at every turn. The city purchased the land this year, promising to build that long-awaited affordable housing.

Since September, the city departments of planning and housing — along with their consultants and the office of Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) — have held public meetings. At this year’s final public meeting, last week at Pilsen’s Jungman Elementary, the city presented preliminary sketch plans for the development, wrapping up this round of community engagement. Titled “Trailhead,” “Linear” and “Pocket,” the sketches vary in where they concentrate open space, the types of buildings (high-rises, mid-rises and townhomes) and how those are arranged. The plans also vary in number of residential units, ranging from 286 to 355. The city has not said whether all units will be rentals or if some will be available to buy. City officials said the sketches are not final plans, but rather will guide developer proposals next year. Officials say a draft plan will be released for public comment in January, and the final plan released in April.

Nicole Reyes, an organizer with the Pilsen Alliance, sits on the city stakeholder group advising about the lot. She wants the site to have 100% affordable housing. As of now, the city is aiming for majority-affordable but says the mix will depend on resident feedback.

According to the DePaul University Institute for Housing Studies, the share of lower-cost rentals in the neighborhood has declined by about 37 percentage points between 2010 and 2020. In that same time period, the share of households making over $100,000 increased by about 17 percentage points, while the share of households making less than $50,000 declined. Within that subset, the biggest losses were in households making less than $25,000.

As one walks through the neighborhood, the contrast is visible. New townhomes with starkly modern architecture stand next to older, brick and wooden buildings.

The Resurrection Project has been providing affordable housing in Pilsen for about 30 years and hopes to submit a bid to develop the lot. Vicky Arroyo said the nonprofit hears from residents who are experiencing gentrification first hand.

“We hear about the individual that says I had to move out of Pilsen because I couldn’t live there,” said Arroyo, Resurrection’s president and chief operating officer. “We have heard residents tell us that the community is changing because they don’t see children in the parks anymore.”

WBEZ’s Indira Khera has more on residents’ efforts here.

More news you need

  1. Nearly two weeks after being found alone with the bodies of his mother and grandfather inside a South Side apartment, 2-year-old Chamaine managed to smile broadly as he greeted Santa Claus yesterday. The moment was part of an event and toy giveaway organized by South Side business owners who wanted to “wrap their arms” around the toddler. Our Michael Loria has more with Chamaine here.
  2. Another Chicago police officer has died by apparent suicide, the third in a week, according to officials. The officer died at his home this morning in the Chicago Lawn District, according to a police department spokesman.
  3. A negligence lawsuit has been filed by a woman who lost both legs in a boating accident at the “Playpen” in Lake Michigan near Oak Street Beach last summer. Lana Batochir’s “catastrophic injuries” in August were “entirely preventable,” her suit claims, naming the company that rented out the boat that struck her and the boat’s captain.
  4. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, implored Chicagoans to get updated vaccinations as the city inches closer to being declared a high risk for getting the coronavirus. Once the city moves to the high risk category, officials will issue a mask “advisory” that encourages people to wear masks in public indoor settings
  5. Thousands of people descended on, or were stranded at, Chicago airports amid the onslaught of an ill-timed winter storm. In the city, meanwhile, high winds and plunging challenges put Chicagoans experiencing homelessness at risk. Our Michael Loria and Mariah Rush have more on the storm’s impact so far here.
  6. In light of the snow storm, many events and activities in and around the city are being canceled or postponed. We’ve got an updated list of what has been called off or rescheduled here.
  7. Homes made from shipping containers could be built and ready to occupy next year on a vacant stretch of Greater Grand Crossing, developers said yesterday. Our David Roeder has more on the 12-home project here.

A bright one

‘It means a lot to us.’ South Side church gives away cheer, hope and thousands of toys ahead of Christmas

Angela Pippen wanted to ensure everyone in her family got something for Christmas this year.

So she brought her daughters, cousins, grandchildren and other relatives to a gift giveaway on the South Side on last night, joining scores of other families for the event at Another Chance Church, 9524 S. Harvard Ave.

“They’re helping someone, and that’s the best thing in the world,” Pippen said. “The kids love to come, they love to get gifts.”

“It’s all for the kids, and it’s a good thing,” Pippen said, adding that her family has come to the event in past years. 

A smiling child holds toys given out by Another Chance Church and Operation Cover Chicago. More than 17,000 donated toys were given out Wednesday evening.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

More than 17,000 toys were set to be given to thousands of children as young as 3 over the course of the evening, according to Kenyatta Smith, senior pastor of the church and chief executive of Operation Cover Chicago, which has organized the event for the last 10 years.

We are here to tell a child, your narrative has changed, you will have a Christmas,” Smith said. “We’re giving a toy, but on the other end, they’re receiving hope.”

Operation Cover Chicago has other programs beyond the giveaway. It has sponsored a gas giveaway, provides mentoring, is involved in violence prevention, and has a housing initiative that has saved more than a dozen homeowners from foreclosure. Smith said he was glad the church was able to hold the event ahead of the winter storm that is expected to hit Chicago this week.

“It’s a miracle on 95th Street,” he said.

Emmanuel Camarillo has more on the giveaway here.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What did you stock up on ahead of the snow storm? Tell us why.

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: Have you ever been snowed in somewhere other than your home?

Here’s what some of you said…

“I once, unfortunately, came home to find my boyfriend cheating on me with some floozy he had been secretly seeing for months. The weather was dreadful and Uber kept canceling. Talk about AWKWARD! She eventually left the next morning. I told him to go with her. He did!” — Nicole Singh

“When my son was a couple of months old we visited my husband’s parents in Chicago. We got snowed in. We used dish towels as diapers — we ran out — and my son slept in a dresser drawer. We still talk about this 43 years later!” — Rhonda Rowe-Skolnik

“Went to Lake Geneva one New Year’s Eve. It was icy raining in Chicago when we left. We had to take our shoes off for our socks to give us traction to get inside when we got to our destination. Stayed three days instead of two as so much snow fell we couldn’t go anywhere. It took me weeks to get all the ice off my car that was left in Chicago when I got home. I’ll never forget it.” — Candy Helen

“In 1964, Christmas coming from Tennessee to Illinois — overnight in snow, stopped traffic in Renfro Valley Rock Castle County, Kentucky! Thank GOD I had a full tank of gas and a good battery so I could warm prepared baby bottles for my month-old son, who I was taking to meet his grandparents.” — Mary V. Czarnik

“Back in 1967, while I was a freshman at the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus. We were told that all classes will be canceled due to heavy snow warnings and be prepared to spend the night at the student union lounge. Living on the far South Side, off 93rd Street, I decided to set off on my way home before the snow got deeper. It took me over 12 hours, hopping on anything that moved, IC, bus and tow truck and walking the rest of the way. This was called the ‘Big Snowstorm of 67’ where nothing moved on the streets for days shutting down Chicago!” — William Dmytriw

“During the huge snowstorm of 1967 friends and I were coming home from college. The snow was so deep that we followed a snow plow until it got stuck. We wound up spending three nights and two days in the Frankfort, Illinois funeral home. We had lotsa fun. We also made our own playing cards out of paper. And no, we didn’t sleep in the caskets.” — Gene Teller

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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December 22, 2022 at 03:11PM

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