Chicago’s West Humboldt Park targeted for $33M, 60 unit mixed-use project

Ground-floor grocery pitched on West Chicago Avenue by A.J. Patton

548 Capital's A.J. Patton with 3831 W Chicago Avenue (548 Capitol, Google Maps, iStock)
548 Capital's A.J. Patton with 3831 W Chicago Avenue (548 Capitol, Google Maps, iStock)

Chicago might have a soft spot for A.J. Patton.

The CEO of 548 Development, which has led projects city officials viewed favorably, said he has acquired property in the 3800 block of West Chicago Avenue with plans to include adjacent vacant city-owned land in a 60-unit housing redevelopment with a ground-floor grocery store, the Sun-Times reported. Project costs would be $33 million.

While terms of Patton’s purchase in the West Humboldt Park neighborhood have not yet been disclosed in public records, the property containing single-story industrial buildings is bookended by vacant city parcels and last changed hands for $300,000 in 2019, when its current owner, Denis Vulich, bought it.

The new mixed-use housing project will use solar panels to produce energy and include triple-pane windows to improve insulation, which will help make it the city’s largest “passive housing” structure, Patton told the Sun-Times, referring to housing designs maximizing energy efficiency.

He wants its residents to have electric bills that are half the cost of comparable buildings and to cut the need for natural gas.

“We’re solving … multiple community issues here,” he told the outlet. “It will be affordable, sustainable housing,” and he plans to have minority-owned contractors lead the project. “We’ve been very intentional about that,” he said.

Patton’s foray into development began with rehabs of small apartment buildings a few years ago, and, as a Black entrepreneur, he has emphasized hiring minority-led contractors. He has obtained financing from sources other than banks that are less willing to invest in communities of color, and minority-owned firms Milhouse Engineering & Construction and Powers & Sons Construction will lead general contracting duties on the Chicago Avenue project, should it move forward.

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Chicago’s top planning official Maurice Cox has called Patton “an up and comer,” according to the Sun-Times.

The Chicago Avenue site is along a business corridor Mayor Lori Lightfoot is aiming to improve through the Invest South/West initiative, a program meant to bring economic development to areas that have been ignored by investors.

It usually involves developers making competing bids for blighted or underdeveloped property that owners have agreed to sell, and the city picks a winner. Patton has been awarded three other parcels through the Invest South/West program, his largest being the 21-acre former Copenhagen chewing tobacco plant where 548 Development is working with Related Midwest to build solar-powered warehousing.

The project still requires approval from the city for a zoning change to move forward, and Patton is asking the city for $8 million in tax increment financing, which allows local governments to put property tax revenues generated by new development toward covering the costs of the improvements. The tax increment financing also still has to be approved by the city.

Patton plans to break ground in the fall and open the project in 2024.

[Sun-Times] – Sam Lounsberry