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LGBT-friendly housing complex receives further approvals
by Matt Simonette

The Chicago City Council Plan Commission, on July 20, approved plans for a long-gestating LGBT-friendly housing project slated for Logan Square to proceed.

The designs for the John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza, announced in 2016, were approved with little discussion at the commission's monthly meeting. Ald. Tom Tunney ( 44th ) raised a question about some building materials to be used but otherwise voiced his support for the project, which is being developed by the Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation.

Chicago Housing Authority ( CHA ) approved plans for the 88-unit project in June. The City Council approved borrowing for $16 million last December. Stakeholders have said they'd like to have permits in hand by the end of 2017 or beginning of 2018 for the 88-unit project, which is named after the late activist John Pennycuff and his husband, Robert Castillo.

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Ald. Proco Joe Moreno ( 1st ), who's been advocating for the complex, told the commission that Castillo and Pennycuff had "always advocated for affordable housing and LGBTQ rights, so we thought it very appropriate that they name this wonderful development the John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza."

Moreno recused himself from the vote, which was otherwise unanimously in the project's favor. He said that the building would be entirely made up of affordable housing units; half would be under the auspices of CHA, while the other half would meet requirements satisfying the city's Affordable Requirements Ordinance. The project had originally been announced in 2016 as part of the Milwaukee-Fullerton TIF District, but that part of the financing plan had apparently been scrapped.

"This isn't a TIF," Moreno told the commission. "These developers were able to come to the table and do this without using a dollar of TIF money, and I think that that is resounding as well."

Castillo, in public comments, highlighted the common misconception that members of the LGBT community were uniformly affluent, and emphasized the need for affordable housing in the area. He further told Windy City Times that he "was confident that the project would come to fruition, and once it's completed, I believe it will be a fitting legacy to John and the work that he did, both within Logan Square and the larger Chicago community."

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