As alderman of the 1st Ward, Proco Joe Moreno has near total control over development in one of the hottest residential areas of the city.
With that, Moreno has cornered the market for campaign contributions from the real estate industry as he seeks re-election, helping him amass one of the most sizable campaign war chests of any alderman.
Moreno, whose ward includes parts of Wicker Park and Logan Square, received at least $127,000 in contributions from developers, building trades and other real estate professionals since 2018, according to a review of campaign finance records by The Real Deal.
In all, Moreno’s re-election campaign has more than $589,000 cash on hand and has raised $220,000 since 2018, 58 percent of it from real estate-related donors.
The industry hasn’t been anywhere near as generous to Moreno’s opponents.
Housing advocate and former Friends of The Parks executive Daniel La Spata received $4,500 from the family of Brian Strauss, whose eviction of beloved rock club Double Door from its longtime Wicker Park location drew the ire of Moreno. The alderman even was caught on tape berating Strauss outside the Double Door building in 2017.
The donation from the Strauss family makes up 8 percent of La Spata’s $54,000 raised since 2018. Fellow Moreno challenger Trevor Grant, a data scientist, has not received any contributions from real estate donors.
Moreno’s biggest real estate donor is Theodore Wynn, an executive with Victor Sign and a property investor with holdings on the Northwest Side. Wynn’s companies donated at least $50,300 to Moreno since 2018, records show.
Wynn’s 30,000-square-foot building at 1401 West North Avenue was partly leased by Uber in 2016. He also owns a Bucktown warehouse that features colorful murals advertising the building’s tenant, Wintrust. Wynn declined comment through an employee Friday.
Moreno eceived campaign contributions from at least 38 real estate entities or professionals, some of whom are active developers in the ward. The alderman’s office did not return a request for comment Friday.
Donors to Moreno’s campaign coffers include Mark Fishman, the controversial-yet-prolific Logan Square developer. An entity controlled by Fishman and business partners Robert Buono and Paul Utigard gave Moreno a combined $10,000. The three businessmen previously partnered on a 99-unit apartment building at 1601 West Division Street in Wicker Park, according to Crain’s.
Fishman’s M. Fishman & Company, the development firm that’s been accused of advancing gentrification in Logan Square, gave $1,500 to Moreno.
Fishman has not gotten along with every alderman he does business with. At the end of 2018, Fishman evicted Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and state Rep. Will Guzzardi from a Logan Square storefront, saying they owed him $42,000 in unpaid rent. Fishman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Campaign contributions from developers are often seen as a way to help move projects along, but it doesn’t always work that way.
For example, RDM Development gave Moreno $1,000 in March 2018. The Chicago-based developers planned a 16-story apartment building at 1628 West Division Street, and received city Plan Commission approval for the development the same month they donated to Moreno.
In August, the alderman blocked the development from being considered by the full City Council, saying the plans ran afoul of the community. Now RDM is moving forward with a 13-story building to appease the neighbors.
Logan Square has one of the hottest housing markets in the city, with prices rising their faster than any other neighborhood. On top of residential developers like the Domain Group ($8,100) and Aberdeen Development ($5,000), residential brokerages Dream Town Realty and @properties gave Moreno $500 and $250, respectively.