The Chicago City Council approved a plan to purchase the now-vacant Jewel-Osco and surrounding parking lot near 115th and Halsted streets for $1 and transform it into a shelter for some of the 3,153 men, women and children being forced to sleep on the floors of police stations across the city and at O’Hare Airport.
The proposal to purchase the 67,000-square-foot vacant former grocery store and the surrounding 6.5 acres of land on the border between Morgan Park and West Roseland once known as the Halsted Indoor Mall passed with the support of Ald. Ronnie Mosley (21st Ward), whose opposition stalled a vote last week.
Mosley dropped his opposition after Mayor Brandon Johnson agreed to amend the proposal to require that the property no longer be used to shelter migrants after Nov. 1, 2024, and to expedite efforts to redevelop the land into the Morgan Park Commons, an affordable housing, retail, entertainment and new park space on the site.
“I’m good with this,” Mosley said.
Johnson said the resolution of the fraught debate is an example of his collaborative approach to governance, and that he would continue to work with Mosley and residents to address any problems that arise.
“It’s a new day in Chicago,” Johnson said.
Only Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th Ward), a frequent critic of the mayor, voted against the measure.
The City Council’s vote paves the way for Johnson’s administration to open the first massive “winterized base camp” on what is now a vacant parking lot. It is unclear how many people could be housed on the site, or when the shelter could open, but officials have said that once they get the green light, the tents could be up and running in four days.
Johnson vowed to find somewhere for the more than 2,600 people living at Chicago police stations, many in tents ill-equipped to keep out the winter chill, snow or rain.
Efforts to care for the migrants have exacerbated tension between Chicago’s Black and Latino communities, with many Black leaders feeling deep frustration that the city is spending millions of dollars to house mostly Latino immigrants in Black communities that have suffered from decades of disinvestment, grinding poverty and rampant crime and violence.
The measure requires the city to donate the land to the Morgan Park Commons’ developer, the Far South Community Development Corp.
President Abraham Lacy said in a statement to WTTW News that the corporation plans to break ground on Morgan Park Commons in 2024.
City officials have yet to make a final decision on whether to build a massive “winterized base camp” on a vacant lot near 38th Street and California Avenue in Brighton Park, Johnson said. That site could house as many as 2,000 families, officials said.