Last month, The John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza (Pennycuff) opened at the corner of Milwaukee and Campbell Avenues in Logan Square after four years of development and city approval meetings and for the past two years, construction on the building.
The 88-unit seven-story building was named in honor of the late LGBTQ rights activist John Pennycuff (who died in January 2012) and his husband Robert Castillo, both of whom were born, raised and active in the Logan Square neighborhood.
Pennycuff and Castillo were both members of the City Council Advisory Council on LGBT Issues and became the first couple to register for Cook County's Domestic Partnership Registry in 2003. Castillo and Pennycuff were also inducted into Chicago's LGBT Hall of Fame in 2001 and 2003 respectively. Both were interviewed together for the Chicago Gay History website in 2007.
"Naming the building proved to be quite easy," said Metropolitan Housing Development Corporation (MHDC) President Richard Gonzalez. "When we were still in the early stages of development, we talked with a wide variety of people and organizations in Logan Square. Two names kept cropping up during these conversations: John Pennycuff and Robert Castillo. Choosing the name, really, was organic."
"I remember coming up with the name (John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments) years ago and watching the project progress the past several years," said Castillo. "It fills me with great joy knowing that John's warm welcoming nature and legacy of fighting for LGBTQ equality have been recognized in a building that is welcoming of all and provides much needed affordable housing in Logan Square."
Pennycuff is one of many properties that the non-profit MHDC has spearheaded since its founding in the late 1960s.
MHDC's mission is to "seek out projects that serve a social mission," said John Pennycuff Memorial Apartments at Castillo Plaza Property Manager Pedro Hernandez. "Affordable housing, especially for those in need, the elderly and other groups that have had difficulty obtaining fair housing opportunities, is central to MHDC's mission. Thus MHDC was interested in extending its work into the LGBTQ community. Some years ago, it began having discussions with LGBTQ people and organizations to see where need might meet opportunity. That place turned out to be Logan Square."
In July 2017 the project was given the go ahead by an almost unanimous approval by the Chicago Plan Commission with the groundbreaking ceremony taking place a year later. The studio, one and two bedroom apartments, with a $700 to $890 rent range, are restricted to people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income and public housing units. There is also street-level retail space and garage parking for residents. Pennycuff also has great access to shopping and public transportation options.
"The apartments are laid out for maximum efficiency without sacrificing aesthetics," said Hernandez.
When asked why this housing is targeted toward the LGBTQ community, Hernandez said "In our experience, even people committed to diversity sometimes do not really get to know people outside their own identity group. By creating housing that specifically extends a welcome to LGBTQ people, while at the same time being open to people of all groups and backgrounds, we have greatly increased the chances that neighbors will come to truly know people who at one time they may have thought were very different from themselves. They are likely to find they are not so different after all. Building these kinds of bonds is something the Pennycuff is committed to doing."
In addition to both Pennycuff and Castillo's Logan Square roots, MHDC chose this neighborhood because of its burgeoning LGBTQ population who have been drawn to the neighborhood over the past 20 years due to (at the time) affordable rents.
Hernandez, who has been with MHDC and its management divisions for over 10 years, told Windy City Times that in recent years housing costs have spiked in Logan Square and that caused many people to be priced out of their homes, including LGBTQ people. MHDC wanted to rectify this and that is how Pennycuff came to fruition.
"The LGBTQ community supported the Pennycuff project from the start and I want to pay it forward and show them the same support now that it is built," said Gonzalez. "I think we have done a good job producing a building that will appeal to the LGBTQ community and I hope they will seek us out. We are offering housing in a rent range that the Logan Square neighborhood has not seen in quite some time."
"If you are looking for a high-quality apartment in a great neighborhood at an affordable price, come see me and fill out an application," said Hernandez. "We are currently renting the studio and one bedroom apartments."
Contact Hernandez at 773-799-8924 for more information.
See related item at www.windycitytimes.com/lgbt/Pennycuff-Memorial-Apartments-now-open/69690.html .