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Aldermen Asking For Halt On New Development Near The 606

The 606 trail

Chicago's 606 Trail has been a success ever since it opened in 2015, drawing thousands of bikers, runners, skateboarders and dog walkers each week along its 2.7-mile length. But that success has a pair of aldermen worried about what the future holds for the low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods on the 606's western half.

All along the rails-to-trails park, which stretches from the affluent Bucktown area to the rapidly gentrifying Logan Square, new homes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars have sprouted up, along with luxury apartment complexes like Centrum Bucktown and Trailhead Apartments, a 109-unit building under construction at 1750 North Western.

26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado and 35th Ward Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa teamed up to co-sponsor an ordinance that would halt most residential demolition and new construction along the trail for 14 months, a move first reported by the Chicago Tribune.   

"What we don't want to see is the re-creation of the suburbs in the city," Ramirez-Rosa told Bisnow

He said the surrounding neighborhood over the past few generations developed a "gentle density," with large numbers of two- and three-flats, affordable mid-rise apartment buildings and many garden apartments, which allowed a diverse neighborhood to flourish. 

Many developers want to keep sweeping away the three-flats and replace them with expensive single-family houses, he said. He saw that process play out in neighboring wards, and even though the new families there have healthy incomes, that doesn't necessarily lead to vibrant retail areas.

"There are still not enough people to support thriving commercial corridors," he said.

The proposed ordinance covers the 1.7 miles west of Western Avenue, and stretches one-half mile north and south of the trail. Developers would have to delay demolishing two- and three-flats during the moratorium, and the aldermen hope the Logan Square Neighborhood Association and LUCHA, among other community groups, as well as city planning officials, will help develop policies to govern new building in this designated area after the moratorium expires.

“What I hope will happen in a year is to have clear guidelines in the 606 designated area so we can slow down and hopefully stop gentrification, so that people who look like me can stay in the area,” Maldonado told the Tribune.

Before the City Council gets a chance to vote on the proposal, it will have to pass muster with the Committee on Housing and Real Estate, but no date has been set to introduce it.   

This is not Maldonado's first attempt to stop gentrification along the 606. In 2017, he sponsored an ordinance that would have created a neighborhood affordable housing fund by charging developers steep fees for tearing down multifamily housing. The proposal was not approved amid concerns over its legality, Ramirez-Rosa said.

But with the neighborhood now evenly split between Latinos and whites, the aldermen felt something needed to be done to preserve the neighborhood's diversity.

"The decision was made to take a different approach."