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POAH breaks ground on Chicago Innovative, Sustainable Affordable Housing on West Side

July 26, 2023

Following several years of robust community planning, Mayor Brandon Johnson joined 28th Ward Alderman Jason Ervin, community members and site developer Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) to celebrate the groundbreaking for Fifth City Commons, revitalizing a corner of East Garfield Park that has lain vacant for decades. 

A long-empty 1.5-acre site at Kedzie and Fifth Avenues will be completed in two phases.  Phase I will include 4,300 square feet of community-approved commercial space and 43 one-, two- and three- bedroom rental apartments. Once completed, Fifth City Commons will transform long-vacant land into one of Chicago’s most environmentally sustainable, transit-oriented, affordable housing developments.  

“That it has taken decades to get to this development is not a sore point with us,” said Alderman Jason Ervin. “Rather it speaks to the tenacity of the community – and our determination to build what is needed and what is best for this historic and strong community:” The apartment building is expected to be completed in mid-2024. 

POAH was selected by the City of Chicago for this development in 2019 as part of the C40 Reinventing Cities competition, an international competition designed to attract highly sustainable development examples to urban sites.

Undaunted by the pandemic and other development challenges, POAH has used the time since then for extensive community outreach through both in-person and on-line meetings to ensure the final product reflects the community’s desires. Dozens of community members joined committees that provided feedback into design, retail leasing and the extensive public art planned for the property. Today, POAH is working with the 28th Ward Office and potential retail tenants to meet the community’s preference for Black-owned businesses.

The innovative new affordable housing center, named in honor of a community development organization still active in the area --  The Fifth City Human Development Project -- will feature 43 apartments built in accordance with Passive House, a leading standard in energy-efficient construction.

Fifth City Commons, located blocks from the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green Line and the Blue Line Kedzie train stations, will be home to families with incomes from 30% to 80% of the area’s median income. Construction will unfold in two phases, with the first phase comprising a three-story building that will also include community rooms, a resident terrace and fitness room, three laundry rooms and on-site management offices. 

Phase II will be built across the street on the north side of Fifth Avenue and is slated to include affordable homeownership opportunities. With planning just under way now, POAH hopes to break ground in late 2024 or in 2025.

“Fifth City Commons and the City of Chicago, with its commitment to and investment in sustainable affordable housing, transportation, and energy-efficiency will demonstrate the impact cities and the built environment can have on climate change,” said Mayor Johnson. “More than 100 years after Chicago showed the world how to design and build skyscrapers, today we are poised to lead the way in the development of sustainable affordable housing. As Mayor, and as a West Sider – I could not be more excited.”

The all-electric apartment building’s sustainable features include triple pane windows, extensive insulation, and air sealing to lower the building’s energy needs in accordance with Passive House principles, energy recovery and highly efficient heating and cooling.  Two-thirds of all its energy needs will be supplied by rooftop solar panels. The property will also have mature landscaping, EV charging stations, extensive bicycle parking, and on-site composting. 

The City of Chicago provided the bulk of the financing for the development in the form of Tax Increment Financing and HOME investment Partnership Program assistance, sales tax bonds, 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) and tax-exempt bonds. The LIHTCand renewable energy credit syndicator is Enterprise Community Investments. The construction lender is BMO, and other financing is being provided by ComEd, Strong, Prosperous and Resilient Communities Challenge and Illinois Solar for All.

“POAH is proud to knit part of the fabric of the neighborhood back together in partnership with members of the East Garfield Park and West Side community, Alderperson Ervin, the City of Chicago, our project team and other stakeholders,” said POAH Vice President Molly Ekerdt, who has led the firm’s development efforts.

In addition to POAH, the Fifth City Commons project team includes a joint venture construction partnership of Skender and Ashlaur construction; Perkins + Will and Nia architects; and dmHMS, Rubinos & Mesia Engineers, Omni Ecosystems and TERRA Engineering.


C40 Cities connects 94 of the world’s greatest cities to take bold climate action, leading the way towards a healthier and more sustainable future. Representing 700+ million citizens and one quarter of the global economy, mayors of the C40 cities are committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level, as well as to cleaning the air we breathe. For additional information about C40, click here.