Controversy surrounds where to house Chicago migrants as winter approaches

Mayor Brandon Johnson addressed crime and the economy to a room full of Chicago’s civic leaders and CEOs on Thursday night, but did not speak on the city’s migrant crisis. This, as new controversy brews over where to house the growing migrant population.

While it was not discussed during his keynote address or during a Q & A portion of the Economic Club of Chicago’s speaker series, Johnson confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times earlier Thursday that he plans to create "winterized base camps" for migrants as the temperature drops. Migrants would be moved out of police stations and into ‘tent cities,’ though, Johnson declined to disclose where they would be located, according to the publication.

Meanwhile, as the city looks to continue moving migrants indoors, their latest sights are set on housing migrants in a Fulton Market office building. The building on the table is located at 344 North Ogden Avenue.

According to CoStar records obtained by FOX 32 Chicago, it is about 56 percent leased. One of its current tenants is the Chicago Card Club – a retailer of card-game related merchandise. That leaves about 46,000 square feet of available space,  but it is currently zoned as a ‘Planned Manufacturing District,’ meaning that current zoning laws prohibit residential development.

The City of Chicago has yet to release any of its plans on the space, and Johnson didn't address it Thursday night – instead keeping his conversation focused on his plan for a "better and safer Chicago."

"We need to make sure that we have more detectives, we have to have constitutional policing, but we also have to pass treatment not trauma, mental health providers showing up when people are experiencing mental health crisis, when people have access to food and good paying jobs, we’ll know we’re successful when people are not living in tents in Chicago," said Johnson.

Meanwhile, Roger Romanelli, the executive director of the Fulton Market Association, says he feels area residents and business owners should have input in the plan. He added that there is frustration among residents when it comes to why funding hasn’t been used to stop our crime crisis.

"Right now in the Fulton Market community, we’re sitting on $300 million in neighborhood TIF money and the alderman is saying we can’t touch it to put up security cameras," said Romanelli. "City Hall has got to open up the process, show us the money, explain who is going to pay for it, and explain why we can’t use our neighborhood dollars for our current neighborhood needs to make everybody safe, it’s a little frustrating I would say."

The president of the Chicago Card Club, Thomas de Boer, who occupies a portion of the Fulton Market building in question, released the following statement to FOX 32 Chicago:

"We have no intention of leaving. My lease here lasts for some time. There will not be a migrant shelter in the building so long as I occupy it. If the landlord attempts to build one, I will sue him."

FOX 32 Chicago’s requests for comment from the Office of Mayor Brandon Johnson, on Thursday, went unanswered.