The numbers behind Alderman Leslie Hairston’s relationship with MAC Properties

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Staff Writer

MAC Property Management, Hyde Park’s second largest private property owner, has been at the center of several claims made by aldermanic candidates in the upcoming election.

Fourth Ward candidate Norman Bolden was the first to invoke the company’s name at an aldermanic forum, saying at a Jan. 10 event sponsored by the Coalition for Equitable Community Development (CECD) that MAC Properties and the University of Chicago contribute “greatly to escalating rents in Hyde Park-Kenwood.”

Since then, 5th Ward candidate Anne Marie Miles has gone after Ald. Leslie Hairston, portraying her as overly responsive to MAC Property’s desires.

The ward has “an alderman who has never said no to them and has allowed them to buy part of the parking lot and the alley at Bret Harte for the magnificent sum of $1,” Miles said at a Jan. 26 forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of Hyde Park.

She added at another forum, sponsored by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference on Jan. 31, that MAC has given Hairston’s “campaigns tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, and she never turns them down for anything.”

According to Illinois Board of Elections records, MAC Property Management, its affiliated limited liability corporations and company executives — including Peter Cassel, its director of community development — have given Hairston’s campaigns and the Fifth Ward Regular Democratic Organization a total of $18,950 since 2006, accounting for roughly 1.9 percent of their total contributions since then.

“As public records show, our executives and affiliated entities have contributed approximately $16,000 to Alderman Hairston’s campaigns over the past 9-year period,” Cassel told the Herald in an e-mail.

But he added, “It’s important to look at that amount in the context of the total amount Alderman Hairston has raised in this same 9-year period.”

Cassel brushed off Miles’ criticism of the $1 land transfer to MAC Property’s parent company, Antheus Capital, LLC’s 24-story Solstice on the Park condo building, and praised Hairston as instrumental in making it happen.

The deal, approved by the Chicago Board of Education last April, saw Bret Harte lose 952 square feet to the Solstice in exchange for $1 million in improvements including a new pick-up drop-off lane, as well as access to six new parking spaces.

Cassel said presenting the $1 figure is “grossly misleading.” “If Solstice had not completed these physical improvements as specified, the land would have reverted back to the City,” Cassel said.

MAC Property Management has dramatically increased its portfolio of Hyde Park real estate in recent years. According to a 2006 Herald report, Antheus Capital had quickly purchased 2,000 rental units in the past five years alone, or about 17 percent of the neighborhood’s units at the time.

Cassel defended Hyde Park’s rising rents as mirroring overall trends across Chicago.

“Since 2002, apartment rents have dramatically risen across the country and in Chicago,” Cassel said, pointing to a Crain’s Chicago Business report noting a 33 percent jump in rents since that year. “Hyde Park and our properties are no exception.”

At the same time a 2013 CECD report has noted that between 2000 and 2010 the rate of renters paying 30 percent or more of their income jumped from 43 percent to 58 percent — five percent higher than the city overall — with most burdened renters living in the eastern part of Hyde Park.

The same report noted that Antheus and MAC Property owned 4,500 units in the neighborhood, mostly in the neighborhood’s eastern and central regions.

Cassel — who has himself donated to Hairston’s past campaigns — said “the alderman has been a very effective and passionate local leader which is why we have actively supported her.”

Cassel declined to comment on other 5th Ward candidates, but added that MAC Property “will, of course, seek to work cooperatively with whomever the public elects as the alderman of the 5th Ward.”

j.bishku@hpherald.com
Twitter: @jeffhba