THREATENED: Pioneer Arcade Redevelopment Stalls Without Allocation of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (Chicago 7 2015)

Pioneer Arcade, 1925, Jens J. Jensen, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Photo Credit: City of Chicago / Commission on Chicago Landmarks
Pioneer Arcade, 1925, Jens J. Jensen, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Photo Credit: City of Chicago / Commission on Chicago LandmarksPioneer Arcade, 1925, Jens J. Jensen, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Photo Credit: City of Chicago / Commission on Chicago Landmarks
Pioneer Arcade Adaptive Reuse Rendering, 1535 N. Pulaski Road. Rendering Credit: Eric Roldan / UrbanWorks Architeture

“1535 N. Pulaski Road is no ordinary Chicago building. Modeled after 17th- and 18th-century Spanish Baroque style architecture, rising two stories with an ivory-colored, terra-cotta facade, the Pioneer Arcade building in Humboldt Park was once a hub for indoor recreational fun, a bowling and billiards hall that was operational for about 80 years.

“Now, the building’s ornate outsides have disguised its hollow insides since the early aughts, with more vacant years likely to come as redevelopment plans have stalled.

“The proposed project for the site is in jeopardy as Chicago’s Department of Housing has twice rejected the Hispanic Housing Development Corp.’s request for a financial letter of support to receive $1.5 million in low-income housing tax credits from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to construct 61 rental units of affordable senior housing.

“Without city support, the organization might have to leave a $6 million grant from Housing and Urban Development on the table, as well as the potential for an additional $24 million in federal rental subsidies to help the developer maintain affordability for the proposed building over a period of 40 years.

“The development corporation received a deadline extension from July 2023 to July 2024 from HUD for when it has to break ground on the project, and the group can receive only one more extension before the five-year time limit.

“We are dead in the water with the project,” said Hipolito “Paul” Roldan, president and CEO of the Hispanic Housing Development Corp. “We don’t know whether HUD would give us another extension on top of this, given the city has not expressed interest in supporting (our project).”

“The $6 million grant came from HUD’s Section 202 funding, money that is earmarked for supportive housing for low-income elderly residents. For HUD’s fiscal year 2020 funding round, 37 projects out of 132 applicants were selected for grants totaling around $150 million, with the Hispanic Housing Development Corp.’s project the only one in Illinois. (Kane, Chicago Tribune, 3/8/23)

“In its current state, the building’s exterior is mostly intact, with only very minor alterations to the main facade. On the interior, the bowling lanes and billiards hall have been significantly altered with no historic significance remaining. In an unusual circumstance, the building came before the commission with a redevelopment plan to demolish the back portion of the building and use the front section as part of a new development by Hispanic Housing Development Corporation.

“With UrbanWorks serving as the architect, the plan calls for the restoration, repair, and integration of the front 35 feet of the Pioneer Arcade, with the rear 85 feet set to be replaced with six stories of senior housing. This new addition will be setback significantly from the street and a new building planned for the vacant site south of the Pioneer Arcade will also be setback from the historic building for visual relief. The muted palette of the new design does not aim to compete with the Pioneer Arcade facade.

“The developers have received site plan approval from DPD under the property’s existing Planned Development and came to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks consenting to the designation. While a designation usually covers the entire building, there are precedents for the landmarking of a building where it is partially demolished for new construction.” (Kugler, Urbanize Chicago, 11/8/22)

After over a decade of vacancy, the Pioneer Arcade received Final Chicago Landmark approval on December 8, 2022. This protection is long-overdue and essential to protect its beautiful ornate facade as part of an adaptive reuse project. The Pioneer Arcade was a Chicago 7 Most Endangered in 2015 and Preservation Chicago has made many attempts over the years to advocate on behalf of the building. We applaud the Chicago Department of Planning and Development for encouraging to the developer to pursue adaptive reuse and Chicago Landmark designation. We encourage the Chicago Department of Housing to prioritize this supportive housing redevelopment, especially since it is the only HUD Section 202 allocation in Illinois.

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