Real estate-backed Chicago alderman to retire

Cappleman represents development-heavy Uptown area

Chicago Alderman James Cappleman (Uptown resident/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons, iStock)
Chicago Alderman James Cappleman (Uptown resident/CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikimedia Commons, iStock)

James Cappleman, a Chicago alderman backed by the real estate industry and representing the development-heaving Uptown area, won’t seek reelection next year.

Cappleman said in an email to constituents that he would retire in May of next year, the end of his third term.

“I ran for Alderman to interrupt the trajectory of the ward because our community demanded more,” he wrote. “From my work with many of you, we surpassed many people’s dreams for this ward’s improvement.”

Cappleman, who doesn’t plan to leave the 46th Ward, didn’t elaborate on his future plans aside from alluding to “some exciting announcements” for the community to come later this summer. His office didn’t provide details on what those announcements might entail.

Cappleman was chair of the City Council’s Zoning Committee when the panel approved Lincoln Yards, the $6 billion mixed-use megadevelopment underway along the North Branch of the Chicago River.

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While Cappleman had the support of the real estate world even before he took over as head of the committee for Ald. Danny Solis, the start of his tenure coincided with a wave of campaign donations from the real estate industry in his 2019 reelection bid. He received more than $72,400 from industry professionals in the two months after taking the post. Cappleman remains a member of the committee, though he’s no longer chairman.

Some of his largest real estate donors were companies with high-profile developments in his ward, including JDL Development founder Jim Letchinger and construction engineering firm Clayco. He also received the support of the operating engineers’ union, controversial landlord M. Fishman & Company, and residential real estate brokerage giant @properties, as well as the Chicago Association of Realtors’ political action committee.

At least two candidates have already lined up to run for Capplemans’ seat, scientist Marianne Lalonde and community organizer Angela Clay.

Lalonde, who challenged Cappleman in 2019 and lost narrowly in a runoff, raised just $2,000 from the industry in the form of a single donation from MKB Realtors. Clay also ran in 2019 but didn’t make the runoff.

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