Migrants Chicago: Fulton Market office building being considered for temporary shelter, ald. says

Thousands of asylum seekers have arrived by bus in Chicago over the last year

Thursday, September 7, 2023
Fulton Market building being considered for temporary migrant shelter
As the Chicago migrant crisis continues, a Fulton Market office building is being considered for a temporary shelter, the local alderman said.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A five-story office building on the edge of Fulton Market is the latest facility being considered for a temporary migrant shelter, Alderman Walter Burnett Jr. said.

As the city struggles to house thousands of migrants pouring into Chicago by the bus load, the 50,000-square-foot office building at 344 N. Ogden Ave. is being explored as an option in Alderman Burnett's 22nd Ward.

It's a loft building across from a Marathon gas station and next to a viaduct.

"It's not the first property that they've explored and just because they've explored doesn't necessarily mean that it's gonna happen so we're waiting to see what's gonna happen," Burnett said.

The property would be used for families, and would become one of the latest temporary housing solutions.

"We want to try to help as much as possible without disturbing the people in the neighborhood, without messing with the quality of life for the folks that live in the neighborhood," Burnett said.

Not everyone is comfortable with it, especially Tom de Boar, the Chicago Card Club owner rents office space in the building, which is about two-thirds full.

"I have no plans to move out; we were not informed about a migrant shelter until recently. We have a long lease on (a) unit and have no plans to move at all," de Boar said.

The building is a joint venture, partly owned by Chicago developer Scott Goodman.

He told Burnett leases are up soon for all the tenants.

Others have issues with the proposed plan because 344 N. Ogden is zoned for a planned manufacturing district, one of the city's most restrictive zoning types.

"If the new mayor wants to remove this restrictive zoning, I know our community would be very happy to have that discussion. But the zoning issue and whether the development is legal, that discussion has to occur first before any development can happen there, any residential," said Roger Romanelli with the Fulton Market Association.

Worried about the possible disruptions of a migrant shelter in a business district, Brian Flanagan is against housing migrants in the area.

He rents office space around the corner from 344 N. Ogden. He chose the space because it is in a manufacturing district, not residential.

"Once you pierce the curtain of having businesses and manufacturing in the area, you bring residential in. It's not going backwards," said Brian Flanagan, who is against the proposed shelter.

The proposed shelter is also right next to a daycare center. The owner did not want to comment.

"I'm sure there is going to be pushback, but the fact of the matter is there is going to pushback all over the city, but, guess what? They do it anyway; aldermen, we are facilitators," Burnett said.

The city continues to grapple with the issue, as several police stations have been overflowing with asylum seekers sleeping inside the lobbies and on the sidewalks in recent weeks.

On Wednesday night, neighbors in Greektown packed into a meeting to voice their concerns about a new temporary shelter reopening there.

The Parthenon Guest House was set to open Friday, but that plan has been pushed back to next Friday.

SEE ALSO: Some CPS schools, local leaders concerned about supporting influx of migrant students

"The endgame is that we are a welcoming city, and we will do our best to welcome the new arrivals who come here," said Beatriz Ponce De Leon, Chicago deputy mayor for Migrant, Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

This comes as the Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications said four buses with migrants arrived in Chicago Wednesday.

"I live next-door to what I'm sure will be a mess. Where are all these people going to be hanging out when the weather is good?" one neighborhood resident said.

At last check, there were almost 7,000 in city shelters and more than 1,500 sleeping at police stations.

The crisis keeps growing, as people look to city, state and federal leaders for answers, along with a detailed plan from Mayor Brandon Johnson.

"He says he's going to announce it soon. He's speaking to the Economic Club tonight so hopefully we'll get more then. I think that important thing is it's got to include a strategy to get federal help because the city can't do this alone," ABC7 Chicago political analyst Laura Washington said.

Sources said that the mayor plans to have a briefing with several alderpersons Friday to discuss his plan, including costs.