by Diana Pando
For more than 20 years, the lot on the corner of Damen and 17th street has been an eyesore to the community. It has been a dump site, a shooting range for drug users, a breeding ground for rat infestations, and an unsafe area for residents and the children of nearby Orozco Community Academy.
That is all about to change.
The Resurrection Project (TRP) has begun construction on Casa Querétaro, a brand new, 45-unit complex of quality affordable apartments that will transform the landscape and provide safe, clean, new apartments for individuals and families.
This project is almost 20 years in the making and a result of neighbors and community leaders advocating for change. In the mid 90s,TRP and area residents organized to tear down the abandoned silos that used to be on the vacant lot.The silos were a magnet for vandalism and criminal activity, and the site itself was often used to burn tires, creating a health hazard for area families and children.
“There were incidents of vandalism, robberies, and an influx of strangers coming in and out of the abandoned silos,” says Alicia Rocha, a lifelong Pilsen resident.
“The structures were falling apart and were an eye soar for the community,” says Raul Hernandez, another Pilsen resident and TRP board member. “There was a lot of garbage accumulating in the area that created a rat infestation.”
TRP began to work with community members, parishes, and elected officials to have the silos torn down. But even with the silos torn down, the lot remained a challenge for the community. For years,TRP tried to convert the empty lot into a healthy community space.
“We saw an opportunity to reclaim a once-dangerous space for the community,” says Raul Raymundo, CEO of The Resurrection Project.“We wanted to create a new building that would transform the landscape while also creating quality, affordable housing so that families could stay in Pilsen.”
The opportunity became reality late last year, when TRP closed the deal to begin construction on Casa Querétaro.
TRP will celebrate alongside dignitaries, partners, and community stakeholders with a shovel ceremony on February 5, 2015.
Construction of Casa Querétaro is expected to be complete in December 2015, and leasing for the new units will begin in October.The 45 units will be available at below-market rates.
“Casa Querétaro will help keep individuals and families from being priced out of the Pilsen neighborhood,” says Guacolda Reyes,Vice President of Economic Development at TRP.
More importantly, Casa Querétaro will reclaim a once-dangerous empty lot and convert it to a new space where families can live and grow as part of the community. It will remove a dangerous empty space near Orozco Academy, and transform the area with a beautiful new building.
This is a victory for the neighborhood and its years-long fight to convert this space into a new community asset.
Casa Querétaro by the numbers
Casa Querétaro will include green architecture, high-efficiency central air and heat systems, Energy Star appliances, and floor materials that include 75% recycled content.
This project represents a $15 million investment in Chicago’s Pilsen community that will also spur jobs and economic opportunity.
The project is possible thanks to significant investment from the following financing partners: City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development, City of Chicago Ogden TIF, Citi Community Capital, Chicago Housing Authority and The National Equity Fund.
The architects for the new apartment building are Design Bridge Ltd. DENCO Construction Inc. will manage the construction.
The building is scheduled to for completion in December 2015.