Pat Gamboney doesn’t want to see his Jefferson Park neighborhood in Chicago become anything other than what it always has been.
“This is a blue-collar, working class neighborhood where a lot of the people are lifelong residents like myself who live and breathe the same values,” Gamboney told the Chicago City Wire. "We don’t want any of that to change.”
As much as anything, it’s the fear of the unknown that has Gamboney wholly opposed to a proposed plan for the construction of a seven-story, mixed-income residential development that would boast at least 100 units.
“I’ve talked with people all over the neighborhood, some of them I’ve known since high school, and we all say the same thing: Namely, what if this plan drives crime up and lowers property values," Gamboney, who owns several properties in the neighborhood, said. "We don’t want to take that chance.”
The plan has the backing of 45th Ward Alderman John Arena, who favors seeing the vacant structure on the corner of Northwest Highway and Milwaukee Avenue transformed into a high-rise in which at least one-fifth of the units would be reserved for low-income residents with Chicago Housing Authority vouchers.
But that’s only if Gamboney and many other Jefferson Park residents aren't successful in their dogged effort to stop the plan in its tracks.
Some residents have already started petitioning, with a Change.org petition collecting more than 2,000 signatures in less than a week, and Gamboney believes there will be a lot more protests soon.
“Right now, what you’re hearing are a lot of individual voices, but I anticipate many of us getting together in groups to let everyone know just how little sense any of this makes to all of us," he said.
Gamboney doesn't understand Arena's argument that his main reasoning for supporting the plan is his belief that it will help jump start local businesses. The alderman contends the project will bring more residents with disposable incomes into the neighborhood, including the low-income dwellers whom he argues will be able to spend more in the community because they will be paying lower rents.
“We’re already a blue-collar neighborhood where many of us do everything we do right here in this neighborhood,” Gamboney said. “That logic makes no sense to me. The businesses are doing fine, and the neighborhood is already overpopulated.”
An engineer by trade, Gamboney insists he’s yet to meet one 45th Ward resident who is in favor of the project. He points to how a similar proposal was recently rejected in nearby Edison Park.
“We plan to fight; anything we can possibly do to stop this we will do,” he said.
The Jefferson Park plan is being developed by Full Circle Communities and includes 51 three-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom apartments, 22 one-bedrooms and 10 studios. The rents are set to range from $300 to $1,900 per month.
Overall, the plan would nearly double the number of affordable housing units currently offered in Jefferson Park. The first 20 reserved apartments would be made available to residents earning roughly 60 percent of the neighborhoods median income, while another 20 would go to renters earning about one-third of the median average.
Building owners will be able to afford the lower rents with the aid of the state's low-income housing trust fund, which offers tax credits to developers who factor affordable housing into their construction plans.
“A lot of people fear that this will be the start of the end of a good neighborhood,” Gamboney said. “I’d like to know where they think the support for this is coming from. We need to be heard on this, and we’ll be raising our voices to make certain that happens.”