Client: Cabrera Capital

Source: Block Club Chicago

LECLAIRE COURTS — A developer’s proposal to revitalize the LeClaire Courts site on the Southwest Side include plans for nearly 700 apartments, the bulk of which will go to people in need of affordable housing.

Developers shared their latest plans for the site during a Tuesday night community meeting. The proposal is a major change for the vacant, fenced-up site — the former LeClaire Courts housing project – that runs along Cicero Avenue where it connects to the Stevenson Expressway.

Development team Cabrera Capital Partners plans to replace the empty lot with buildings that will have nearly 700 residential units, a federally qualified health care center, a grocery store, a day care center, a community center and a job training facility, among other retail outlets that haven’t been decided yet.

Residents asked few questions during Tuesday’s meeting, but Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), whose ward includes the site, said he’s gotten positive feedback from locals about the plans. Neighbors are especially pushing for the grocery store, he said.

“I truly believe this will be a game-changer,” Rodriguez said during the meeting.

The development has the potential to be a “catalyst” for other projects along the Cicero corridor, Rodriguez said, adding his office has gotten more inquiries about development there in the past two months than it had in two years.

Right now, developers are focusing on the first phase of the massive project, which could see construction begin next year.

The first phase includes building a commercial part — the full-service grocery store and a health care center — and a residential part — two mid-rise buildings along Cicero, which will hold about 190 units — said Mark Kirincich, a principal at Cabrera Capital.

The commercial development aspect of the project will be focused on addressing the food desert in the area, bringing health care to the community and building up residents’ quality of life, according to the presentation shown Tuesday.

The residential aspect will focus on combining mid-rises with low-density units, creating spaces for older residents and filling the need for affordable housing, according to the presentation.

Units from the first phase are expected to have rents of $860-$1,050 per month depending on size and the household’s income level, according to the developer’s FAQ. That does not apply to people who will have their rent subsidized by the Chicago Housing Authority.

Kirincich said 30-35 percent of the units will be dedicated to former residents of LeClaire Courts or people on the Chicago Housing Authority’s wait list. Another 40-45 percent of the units will be affordable housing, and the last 20-25 percent will be market-rate apartments.

Before the end of the project, developers plan to have multi-family units available in everything from studios to limited numbers of four- and five-bedroom homes, as well as about 100 units that will be for people 55 and older.

The land for the project is owned by the Chicago Housing Authority, but the plans call for a mixed-income development where affordable units are “indistinguishable” from market-rate rental units. There are currently no plans to offer units for sale.

The developers have also said they’ll create open green space and spots for community gathering. They will “attempt to save as many old trees as possible” while putting in new landscaping.

The next step for developers is to get zoning approval from the Chicago Plan Commission, which is set to happen at a Thursday meeting.

Construction of the first phase’s commercial part could start as early as the first half of 2022 and take 12-18 months to complete, Kirincich said. The residential part will ideally follow suit.

The property was originally home to the LeClaire Courts public housing project, which was demolished by the Chicago Housing Authority in 2011 while the agency promised a better plan for the future.

Cabrera Capital Partners and Habitat was picked in 2019 to work on the site. It’s been developing its plans since.

In addition to the retail and commercial amenities, the development will create more than 775 construction jobs and 675 permanent jobs, said Martin Cabrera, CEO of Cabrera Capital.