Housing project sparks demonstration in front of Ald. Arena’s office


About 140 demonstrators most of them against a proposed seven-story, mixed-income housing project at 5150 N. Northwest Highway, stood outside Alderman John Arena’s office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave., on Tuesday evening, Feb. 21.

Demonstrators were on both sides of the street, and four to eight police officers were there at all times.

Arena has been advocating in favor of the housing plan since it was announced a few weeks ago. The proposal calls for 100 apartments, including 60 affordable and 20 low-income, CHA-subsidized units, and the project’s developer, Full Circle Communities, has said that efforts would be made to heavily market the units to veterans.

Little support for the project was voiced at a Feb. 9 community meeting which Arena hosted on the project.

One of the protesters said that he does “not know what affordable housing is” but that he opposes the project because the area is already too congested and that 100 units would be too large of a development for the site. Other protesters complained about the height of the project and the impact which the project’s density would have on the area’s overcrowded public schools.

Several residents said that they would welcome the project if it were reduced to four stories, which under the Gladstone Park “master plan” is the recommended height for Milwaukee Avenue and Northwest Highway north of the Kennedy Expressway. “Everybody is welcome, four stories or less” was one of the most repeated chants during the two-hour demonstration.

The plan was based on input from the Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association, Gladstone Park Chamber of Commerce, Arena, Alderman Margaret Laurino (39th) and the city Department of Planning and Development.

Chicago Rising, a citywide human rights group, called for a counter-demonstration in support of the project. A statement issued before the protest charged that opponents were “largely motivated and stoked by coordinated misinformation” with racial and political overtones.

Supporters chanted “housing is a human right” while they gathered near the entrance of Arena’s office.

Police handcuffed and took away a man who reportedly was using amplified equipment to speak in support of the project.

While inside the lobby of his office, Arena talked to several residents about the project.

Organizers of the demonstration against the housing project said that more protests are expected. Earlier this month protesters stood outside a meeting of the Old Irving Park Association while Arena was the association’s guest speaker.