The 88 units in John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments are beginning to fill: What would John say?

Date: 
12/01/2020
JPMABldg

The John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Robert Castillo Plaza

As the newly completed 88-unit John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments (JPMA) at Robert Castillo Plaza begins to fill with tenants at the corner of Milwaukee (2031 N.) and Campbell Avenues, it is a reminder of the two long-term issues this building addresses: affordable housing and the LGBTQ community.

John Pennycuff

John Pennycuff

"I can't put into words what I think John would say about the building," says Robert Castillo regarding his late husband. 

"Instead, I picture him smiling that great reassuring smile of his with an expression of pure joy on his face… like a kid opening a much anticipated present on Christmas morning.

"He was so loved and was such a compassionate man. My hope is that the building will create the kind of warmth for its residents that John did for his friends and family. This building is a legacy to a gentle giant." 

JohnRobertOrr

At opening the 10/1/03 County Domestic Partnership Registry with David Orr are Robert (r) and John (c)

While the building is that, it is also in honor of two Logan Square born men who shared a passion for advocating for greater equality for Chicago's LGBTQ community and affordable housing in Logan Square.  

Both Pennycuff and Castillo served on The City Council Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and were the first couple to register for the Cook County Domestic Partnership Registry in 2003. 

They were legally married in 2004. While Pennycuff passed away in January 2012, his legacy lives on as Castillo continues to pursue their shared passions. 

Studio

Studio unit

What is the complex?
The building is seven stories tall with 1,700 square feet of commercial space, 18 parking spaces (two are for handicapped) and a loading zone on the ground level. 

The unit breakdown for the upper six floors is:

Unit size                

Sq ft   

Unit Count

Studio

490

28

1 Bedroom/1 Bath

712

48

2 Bedroom/2 Bath

981

12

2BedRLvng

Kitchen and living space in a two-bedroom unit

Completely affordable units, those who want to apply for a unit in the LGBTQ- friendly building must have a combination of income and number of household members that fall in a specific range for one of the two types of funded units. One is Tax Credit Units and one is CHA (Chicago Housing Authority) Units. Each has different requirements.

If you would like to learn about your eligibility call 312.236.9673 or send an email

2BRbedroom1

One of the two bedrooms in the 2-bedroom unit

A few residents are already in their units while a total of approximately 35 have applied. It is expected that all of the units will have tenants by the end of the year or early in 2021's first quarter. 

How and when did the project begin?
The building's roots are physically planted in a corridor where the gentrification ball picked up speed as it rolled with ever increasing revolutions north along Milwaukee Ave. in 2000's early second decade. 

It is an area where people lived modestly for generations. Among the residents were those in the LGBTQ community. Gradually everyone with low incomes were being pushed out. 

In 2013 the Lathrop Homes project was just getting started. A year later 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunny helped open 3600 N. Halsted as "the nation’s first affordable housing development meant to benefit the needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) seniors."

Affordable housing was a very hot issue as the gentrification path up Milwaukee Ave. landed at the site of the former Congress Pizza

Then 1st Ward Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno, working with the CHA on Lathrop Homes, listened as they said the Milwaukee Ave. site would be a good location for a project. 

Involved with affordable housing since 1968, the not-for-profit Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) became involved with the site and purchased the land. 

By May 2016, Moreno, who was committed to using TIF funds for two reasons: schools and affordable housing, said, “I am pleased to announce this TIF-funded affordable housing project in Logan Square, which has been in the planning process for more than two years.”

RGonzalez

Richard Gonzalez stands outside the entrance to the new 88-unit building

Project evolution
President of Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation, Richard Gonzalez* is like Pennycuff and Castillo. He is a man of passion about affordable housing. 

"Buildings are renting for about $3 a square foot. A one bedroom unit would be something like $3,000 a month. Not everyone can afford that.

"People who deserve and have not been fortunate enough to make a life they want but they have a great heart and they need a decent place to live…those are the people I battle for," explains Gonzalez. 

It was that passion that drove him to pull together $33 million for this project. Broken down: $14 million from CHA's capital improvement fund; $12 million from the Tax Credit Funds; and $7 million from a private mortgage. "We did not use the TIF funds," said Gonzalez. 

While he says, "I am proud that this building will be able to provide the housing needed," current 1st Ward Alderman Daniel La Spada says, "I live down the block at Belden and Campbell and it is exciting to see it come to completion." 

Because of the pandemic, a ribbon cutting ceremony has not been planned for the largest LGBTQ-friendly complex in the nation. They hope a ceremony will be possible in the new year. 

*For those who may think Gonzalez looks familiar, he has lived in the area most of his life and retired as a Chicago Police Department Sergeant from the 14th District last year.

LookingOut2031

Though the weather outside was gloomy, the view was awesome!


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