Over objections from local Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st), a City Council committee agreed Monday to accept the donation of a vacant grocery store and parking lot at 115th and Halsted streets and to transform it into a winterized base camp for asylum-seekers.
Normally, Council members to defer to each others’ wishes on land issues involving their wards.
But the pressing need to get 3,344 migrants off the floors at Chicago police stations and O’Hare and Midway airports is a more pressing need than preserving the unwritten rule known as aldermanic prerogative.
That’s apparently why the Housing Committee agreed Monday to accept the 6.5 acres and 67,797-square-foot building donated by Albertson’s Companies, parent company of Jewel, which had operated the grocery store.
“The site will eventually be developed into a vibrant, middle- [and] working-class, mixed-use housing and retail development,” Michelle Woods of the Department of Assets and Information Services, told the Housing Committee.
“Ald. Mosley … supports the Morgan Commons development and supports the city acquiring the site for Morgan Commons.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Johnson’s City Council floor leader, said the site will be turned into a “temporary base camp shelter.” The city will pay the property taxes during that time.
“How do you say ‘no’ to free land that will eventually be redeveloped and added back to the tax rolls?” Ramirez-Rosa wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.
Mosley did not attend the committee meeting and could not be reached.
In a statement issued before Monday’s vote, the freshman alderperson said he was “highly disappointed” by the city’s intention to move forward with plans to erect a second “temporary asylum seeker shelter at that site “despite community concerns.”
“Last month, after our community expressed multiple concerns about this shelter, I co-sponsored an ordinance that addressed these concerns and advocated for aldermen to receive a 3- day notice of intentions to house migrants in their communities. Unfortunately, those have not yet passed,” Mosely was quoted as saying.
Declaring that his Far South Side Ward “will not tolerate the prioritization of a crisis over our needs and voices,” Mosely went on make several demands from the Johnson administration.
• A “full commitment” to break ground on the mixed-use project, officially known as Morgan Park Commons, in 2024 “at the same site.”
• Completion of the Beverly Ridge housing development.
• Temporary shelter for Chicagoans “so residents of this community can become more housing secure.”
• Unspecified capital improvements “required” at Julian High School.
• Beautification of the 21st Ward.
• A commitment to turn up the heat on President Joe Biden and Congress to deliver the “necessary federal dollars and resources available, but not given forcing our city to attempt to solve a nationwide issue with strained resources.”
“There are still many questions about safety, time-lines and care for our own residents that have not been answered,” Mosley is quoted as saying in the statement.
“The 21st Ward deserves answers to these questions and I will continue to fight for a true commitment and investment in our community from this administration.”
The migrant crisis that has seen 19,500 asylum seekers descend on Chicago has exacerbate historic political tensions between Blacks and Hispanic.
The growing divide was on display last month when Mosley led a ward led a ward meeting about the proposal at a church kitty-corner from the potential tent site.
Residents filled the pews at the church for the meeting, with others left standing outside. Many at that often-tense meeting said they were sympathetic to the migrants’ plight, but opposed a tent city in the area.
They raised concerns about background checks, whether migrants had been vaccinated, where they would learn English, how the tent city would be kept clean and if it would affect property values.
They expressed frustration with the amount being spent to house and feed the migrants, saying there are homeless and food insecure individuals across the city, particularly in Black neighborhoods that have historically suffered from disinvestment.
Mosley had assured his constituents on that night that the site “doesn’t work” for a migrant shelter.
Against that backdrop, Ramirez-Rosa was asked why Mosely’s concerns had been ignored.
“Mosely opposes the shelter, but he supports the Morgan Commons development and supports the acquisition of the land for the Morgan Commons development. A clear commitment was made … that the acquisition of the land will lead to the Morgan Commons development,” Ramirez-Rosa wrote in a text message to the Sun-Times.
“The city acquiring the land is the first step toward redeveloping the land for the benefit of the community.”