Chicago Migrants

Chicago signs land use contract for $91K per month to house migrants in vacant lot in Brighton Park

NBC Universal, Inc.

CHICAGO – NBC 5 Investigates has learned the city of Chicago has signed a land use contract with the owners of a vacant lot in Brighton Park to use the property to provide temporary housing for migrants.

A copy of the licensing agreement shows the city will pay the owners of the lot $91,400 a month for use of the land. The terms of the deal appear to be for six months, but allows for time extensions that could come with a three percent increase in the “licensing fee.”

The contract also states that the lot comes “as-is” and makes no guarantees about its conditions or “compliance with laws and regulations, including… those relating to health, safety and the environment.”

Area residents have raised concerns about the lot’s environmental history.

The owners of the property, the Barnacres Corporation out of Markham, IL, declined to comment Thursday when NBC 5 Investigates reached out about the contract.

The controversial location near 38th and California has sparked numerous protests and public backlash – including one recent incident in which 12th ward Ald. Julia Ramirez reported being assaulted while in a crowd that had gathered near the site.

A virtual meeting on the Brighton Park location is set for Thursday night.

The city has been in search of locations to assemble so-called base camps that could help remove up to 3,000 migrants from sleeping on the sidewalks or inside Chicago Police districts.

Mayor Brandon Johnson was asked about the status of the site near 38th and California during a Wednesday news conference.

Johnson said the city was “still assessing. So I think this was raised before – there are a lot of environmental dynamics that have gone on in the city of Chicago that have gone unaddressed for a very long time.”

The mayor went on to compare the current situation in Chicago to the TV show “Property Brothers,” where prospective homebuyers acquire property and then discover issues along the way.

He added: “so I have do my due diligence to ensure that the environmental space is palatable for such a site to exist.”

When pressed by NBC 5 Investigates Thursday about why Johnson did not mention the contract to reporters, a spokesman for the mayor said he did not address it because he was not specifically asked about it.

Concerns about the ongoing environmental assessments - coupled with the work being done on the property - prompted Brighton Park resident Anthony Moser to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the city seeking a copy of any agreements or contracts.

He received a copy of the agreement Wednesday.

(The city) didn’t announce the contract, they didn’t announce the site and they didn’t tell us that they had signed a deal for it. I don’t know what definition of transparency that would fit… yet no one seems to know what’s going on,” Moser told NBC 5 Investigates.

A spokesperson for the city’s law department said that the Barnacres Corporation signed the contract on Oct. 26 but that the city didn’t finalize it until Nov. 1.

In a statement released Thursday evening Alderwoman Ramirez said:

“The city did not inform me that a lease had been signed. I continue to be frustrated and disappointed in the administration’s lack of transparency with my community and am deeply concerned that a lease would be signed prior to a full environmental assessment taking place. The city owes 12th ward residents an explanation, which I hope they will get at the community meeting tonight.”

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