Atrium Village Timeline

Canadian developer Onni Group deployed money and clout to recast an entire Chicago neighborhood, while long-standing renters say they were abandoned by Ald. Walter Burnett, 27th Ward, an investigation by the Better Government Association found. The records shed new light on this Chicago corner once considered to be a civil rights landmark.


The 309-unit Atrium Village — built and owned by a coalition of four church congregations — opens its doors as one of the first racially diverse, mixed income residential apartment complexes in Chicago.

Source: Sun-Times File Photo


Maze Jackson starts working for Ald. Walter Burnett and his wife as a paid campaign consultant, providing advertising, promotions, consulting and election day expenses, campaign records show.



Churches that co-own Atrium Village announce plans to sell, saying in a press release any new development will stay “true to the original mission,” and 20% of the apartments will be reserved for low- and moderate-income tenants.

Source: MKCommunications

August 19, 2011

Jackson speaks to “rolling out” magazine about his work with lobbying and his start in politics, crediting Burnett who he said “really brought me into this political game.”


March 5, 2014

The Vancouver, B.C.-based real estate firm Onni Group agrees to pay roughly $53 million for the Atrium Village. This is Onni’s third big land purchase in Chicago, and real estate experts tell Crain’s Chicago the price is "attractive.“

Source: Crane's Chicago Business

June 23, 2014

The church groups file a Restrictive Covenant agreement stipulating the 20% affordable set-aside.

Source: Cook County Recorder of Deeds

June 2015

Onni affirms plans to include about 300 affordable units on-site. According to the tenants’ group and their attorneys, the affordable units would be dispersed throughout the luxury towers so that 20% of each high rise would include low- and moderate-income tenants.

Source: BGA Reporting

Aug. 31, 2015

Onni signs Maze Jackson’s The Intelligence Group, established in 2013, as a lobbyist and agrees to pay him $60,000 for the first year. Onni paid Jackson to lobby Burnett because “The Onni Group would prefer not to build the affordable housing units,” Jackson wrote in his pitch to Onni.

Source: City of Chicago Lobbying Disclosure

Nov. 3 2015

Burnett tells DNAinfo Onni “is trying to get out of” its affordable housing commitments. He says: “It's not right…. They're trying to wine and dine me. I'm like 'Nah, just do the affordable housing.'


Nov. 3 2015

Burnett’s campaign committee pays Jackson, already a Onni lobbyist, $200 for political “consulting.” It is the last check Burnett writes to Jackson, who has been his political consultant for 14 years.

Source: Illinois Board State of Elections

Nov. 2015

The Onni Group begins demolition begins at Atrium Village.


March 2016

Onni breaks ground on its first high rise on the Atrium Village property.


June 2016

Jackson reports hosting a fundraiser on Onni’s behalf for Friends of Walter Burnett, Jr., the alderman’s flagship campaign fund. The date of the fundraiser is not clear from records, nor how much is raised. Lobbying expenditure reports filed with Chicago show Jackson spent $660. 97 for “table chair linen rental,” and $800 for “event catering,” all of which was expensed to The Onni Group.

Source: City Lobbying Disclosure

Aug. 16, 2016

Longtime Atrium Village residents report being forced out by Onni.

Source: BGA Reporting

Aug. 29-31, 2016

City Hall planning managers assert in emails that Onni is trying to evade its affordable housing obligations. “I will be damned if I let that go…,” one official writes.

Source: BGA Reporting

Oct 7, 2016

In further emails, city planning managers and Department of Planning and Development Commissioner reach out to Burnett about Onni’s affordable housing plans. Any conversations they had with him are off the public record.

Source: BGA Reporting

Oct 27, 2016

The Atrium Village Tenants Committee writes a letter to Burnett to say they are concerned about being displaced, and to request a meeting. “We stand with each other as neighbors and as members of a community.

Source: BGA Reporting

Nov. 2016

Nov. 2016: Longtime tenant Lynn Cox is among those forced out as Onni tears down units. She and her daughter move to the South Side.

Source: BGA Reporting

Nov. 2016

Burnett and the City Council pass a 162-page ordinance approving Onni’s new subdivision of Atrium Village. The ordinance doesn’t mention affordable housing or the covenant in place.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Dec. 10, 2016

Burnett tells the Chicago Sun-Times Onni tried to back out of its affordable housing commitment, but he held up the project for more than six months until they capitulated.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

Dec. 12, 2016

Tenants attend a community meeting and plead with Onni and Burnett to ensure they won’t be displaced. "I was fighting for the affordable folks, and that's what I try to do all the time," Burnett tells them. "... There are only certain things we can do. We can't protect everybody.

Source: BGA Reporting

Jan. 13, 2017

Onni grants a 3-month extension on evictions related to their redevelopment of Atrium Village, pushing the February move-out date to April 30th, improving displaced tenants’ ability to locate replacement housing.

Source: BGA Reporting

Feb. 2017

Onni publicly tells tenants that over the last six months it has secured the backing of Burnett and City Hall to keep an aging brick midrise on the site and cluster 207 affordable units in that structure, thus keeping its commitment.

Source: BGA Reporting

March 2, 2017

The Atrium Village Tenants Association writes to Onni and Burnett: “We are extremely disheartened to learn of the changes Onni is making to the redevelopment plan for Atrium Village.” The changes “appear to undermine” Onni’s commitments to set aside 20% of the total units as affordable and disburse them throughout the redevelopment’s phases “to ensure low-income families and seniors are not ghettoized as second class citizens within the community we have called home for decades.”

Source: BGA Reporting

April 13, 2017

Burnett writes the city Zoning Administrator to “express my support for the proposed minor changes” to the redevelopment plan proposed by Onni. It is the first public declaration that Burnett has shifted his allegiance from the tenants’ position to Onni’s.

Source: Chicago City Council

March 8, 2018

Onni notifies Atrium residents there will be no affordable housing in its first completed luxury high-rise. Residents who wanted to apply “for an apartment at the published market rates” were directed to Onni’s online application portal.

Source: BGA Reporting

Spring 2018

Saying Onni and the city have treated them like “‘bald-headed stepchildren,’” the tenants and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law file a HUD Fair Housing complaint against Onni and the city.

Source: Chicago Reader

August 2018

August 2018: Onni announces $25,000 donation to Chicago Neighbors United, an education-focused charity run by Burnett’s wife, Chicago Housing Authority official Darlena Williams-Burnett.

Source: YouTube

Sept. 10, 2018

Onni and the Shriver Center settle the fair housing complaint, saying in HUD documents and a press release the redevelopment will include 300 affordable units, with 211 of them in the old mid-rise building.

Source: U.S. Housing and Urban Development

Sept. 12, 2018

The former church owners write to Onni expressing their anger that “ONNI intends to segregate the vast majority of the affordable housing units it is building in the existing mid-rise building.” Onni’s plan “violates the covenants,” set in place by the original church developers, they wrote.

Source: BGA Reporting

Dec. 2, 2018

Pastor Laura Truax of LaSalle Street Church, one of the founding developers of Atrium Village, writes to parishioners in the church newsletter that she toured the old building and while it has “a new gym, spiffy furniture … there is a feeling of ‘separate but equal’ vibe to it.”

Source: LaSalle Street Church

Dec. 21, 2018

A half dozen city council members vote against a zoning ordinance which would allow Onni to move forward with construction at Atrium Village, citing the segregation of the affordable units into the mid-rise. Burnett doesn’t vote on the plan, but angrily tells Zoning Committee Chair Ald. Tom Tunney, “This is my ward. You are stepping too far. Don’t get involved in this,” according to Block Club Chicago. “I know you are running for office, but don’t keep playing with my ward.”

Source: Block Club Chicago

Dec. 10, 2019

A group of 11 “current or displaced” Atrium Village tenants writes to the pastors of the four churches asking them to intervene with Onni’s “abuse and disregard … These long-term residents are paying more than they can afford, and are fearful of losing a foothold in the community they call home.”

Source: BGA Reporting

March 17, 2020

Onni donates $11,000 to the political action committee of Williams-Burnett, the Chicago Intellect PAC.

Source: Illinois Board State of Elections

March 31, 2022

Jackson’s most recent quarterly lobbying disclosure shows he’s still working for Onni and was paid $19,500 over the first three months of this year. To date Onni has paid Jackson $417,500 for his efforts to shepherd Atrium Village through City Hall.

Source: City of Chicago Lobbying Disclosure