After landing key zoning position, Cappleman’s contributions from real estate players spike 

The 46th Ward alderman facing a runoff election next week received $72,400 since being named head of the powerful City Council Zoning Committee in late January

March 27, 2019 04:00 PM

James Cappleman (Credit: Facebook, Flickr, and iStock)

Alderman James Cappleman’s ascension to head of the City Council’s Zoning Committee put him front-and-center in the contentious Lincoln Yards approval process a month before the February primary election.

It’s unclear if his new position helped him advance to next week’s runoff election, but the 46th Ward alderman’s status as Zoning Committee chairman appears to have been a boon for his campaign coffers.

Real estate industry professionals have donated at least $72,400 in the two months since Cappleman was named to the post, according to a review of campaign finance disclosures by The Real Deal.

Cappleman had the support of the real estate world even before taking over as the head of the Zoning Committee for disgraced Ald. Danny Solis. As the alderman of the development-heavy Uptown area, Cappleman has raked in $138,000 from real estate industry players since June 2018, which accounts for 47 percent of the $292,900 in total contributions he has raised since then.

Of the contributions from the real estate world, about half have come in since Jan. 29, the day Solis resigned and Cappleman ascended to lead the zoning committee, making him a key gatekeeper for development in the city, records show. The $72,400 raised from real estate players since late January accounts for about 24 percent of his overall fundraising total since June.

A spokesperson for Cappleman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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On Feb. 26, Cappleman survived the primary election to face challenger Marianne Lalonde in Tuesday’s runoff. Cappleman holds a massive campaign fundraising advantage, with his nearly $293,000 raised dwarfing Lalonde’s $59,353.

Cappleman also has cornered the market for contributions from real estate players, after Lalonde raised just $2,000 from the industry in the form of a single donation from MKB Realtors, records show.

Some of Cappleman’s biggest real estate donors are companies with high-profile developments in his ward. That includes JDL Development founder Jim Letchinger, who gave $5,600. JDL Development is behind the 381-unit Eight Eleven Uptown in Cappleman’s ward.

Clayco meanwhile, donated $5,500 to Cappleman’s campaign, records show. The firm’s real estate arm is working to deliver a 12-story apartment building at Sheridan Road and Wilson Street in Uptown.

After a $10,000 donation from the operating engineers’ union, the second-biggest real estate donation to Cappleman came from M. Fishman & Company, the controversial landlord and developer best known for its investments in Logan Square. Fishman’s website lists only one property in Uptown, a mixed-use apartment and retail building on North Sheridan Road.

Representatives for JDL, Fishman and Clayco did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Cappleman also has garnered the support of the residential real estate world. The alderman has received $4,000 from brokerage giant @properties, and he recently received $2,200 in donations from the Chicago Association of Realtors’ political action committee, records show.

“He has a strong and nuanced understanding of affordable and rental housing, and he’s challenged us to work harder to find incentives” to building affordable housing, said Brian Bernardoni, senior director of government affairs and public policy for the Chicago Association of Realtors. “We’ve found him to be a strong advocate for those who are voiceless, but in the same token, has inspired us to come up with some solutions on affordable housing.”

Since Cappleman took office in 2011, development has surged in his ward.

There’s the 25-story Eight Eleven Uptown and Clayco’s building at Sheridan and Wilson. Cappleman also approved a 197-unit complex at Wilson and Broadway.

One of the area’s most recent controversial developments was the rehabbing of the shuttered Stewart Elementary School into the Stewart School Lofts, which opened last year with studio apartments seeking $1,700 a month.

Cappleman also spearheaded a number of public redevelopment initiatives. The alderman helped get tax increment financing to aid Farpoint Development’s $75 million restoration of the historic Uptown Theatre, and the CTA Wilson Red Line station received a $200 million upgrade on his watch.

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