Aldermen on Tuesday will consider an ordinance authorizing the city to acquire the interests in seven properties formerly owned by Finney. Three are clustered on the same block bound by University and Woodlawn avenues and East 63rd Street.
Finney’s nonprofit Woodlawn Community Development, once a real estate powerhouse in the area, auctioned off several properties in the wake of the influential pastor’s bankruptcy filing last fall. In a somewhat unusual maneuver, the city will acquire those lots from one of its partners, Community Initiatives Inc., which bought them at that October auction for just over $3 million.
“The city wanted to make sure it could ensure the fate and affordability of the lots, consistent with the fair and equitable development of the neighborhood,” Don Terry, a Department of Housing spokesman, told Crain’s in an email.
While local Ald. Jeanette Taylor, elected on a platform of protecting Woodlawn residents from displacement, could not immediately be reached for comment, Housing Chair Harry Osterman, 48th, said his understanding of the city's intent is that it will work with neighbors “to use those assembled parcels in a positive way for the community.”
The DePaul Institute of Housing Studies has classified the area around the OPC as "vulnerable to displacement” because of a high share of families whose rent makes up most of their costs, and the growing cost of renting and owning property.
Amid some protests and organizing for a community benefits agreement to preserve affordable housing in the area, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has pledged not to be a “bystander” in the OPC’s construction. The mayor has said she wants her administration to “think in a big way about how we can use this moment to transform” surrounding neighborhoods.