CHICAGO - A lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday claims the Chicago Housing Authority’s deal to lease land to the Chicago Fire soccer club to build an $80 million training center on the Near West Side did not go through proper review procedures.
The lawsuit claims CHA’s application and its approval by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development were completed in violation of its own rules and procedures because the federal agency failed to conduct a civil rights review.
The lawsuit — filed by the Coalition to Protect CHA Land, the Chicago Housing Initiative, and the Lugenia Burns Hope Center — claims the land is needed now more than ever for affordable housing due to gentrification and growth in the area around it, known as Roosevelt Square.
"While CHA’s primary purpose is to relieve the shortage of affordable, safe, decent, sanitary, and accessible housing by constructing, operating and maintaining public and affordable housing, it is instead engaging in a no-bid deal with Joe Mansueto, the billionaire owner of a for-profit professional soccer team," the suit states.
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot muscled through a controversial zoning change last fall that paved the way for the training center to be built on CHA land formerly occupied by part of the ABLA Homes housing projects. She announced the lease in March and attended a groundbreaking for the facility in late April.
"The plan was rushed through a prior administration in an election year when the incoming Chicago mayor, Brandon Johnson, publicly opposed the disposition of public housing land for private uses," the groups behind the suit said Friday in a news release.
The suit seeks an injunction to block the deal.
The site is bounded by Roosevelt Road, Ashland Avenue, 14th Street and Loomis Street.
The 53,000-square-foot facility will include 21⁄2 hybrid grass pitches with a hydronic heating system; three synthetic turf pitches protected by an insulated dome between November and March; and a two-story performance center.
Johnson said during his campaign that he opposes building anything on CHA land that is "not public housing."
A spokesman for the mayor didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment. Neither did a representative for the CHA. A spokesman for the Chicago Fire declined to comment.
The Fire paid $8 million up front and also will pay rent to the CHA, starting at $800,000 a year, with future increases. The 40-year lease is expected to generate $40 million for the CHA. There also are two, 10-year renewal options.
"It’s great that we build. Jobs will be generated by that. … But what’s really important and a game-changer is that, when we make these investments, we need to create full-time employment for the residents so they continue to benefit," Lightfoot said at the groundbreaking.
CHA Chief Executive Officer Tracey Scott said at the time: "I’d like to make one point crystal clear: CHA will fulfill our commitment to developing new housing in this area."