Elgin approves $19M project to turn old Larkin Center into affordable housing, homes for people with disabilities
From the Chicago Tribune
March 1, 2019
A $19 million project to turn the former Larkin Center property into housing for people with disabilities and affordable housing received unanimous approval this week from the Elgin City Council.
Full Circle Communities plans to renovate the former Larkin Center, built in 1912 as an orphanage, into apartments for people with disabilities, said Marc Mylott, director of community development.
“It is a good project,” Councilman Terry Gavin said.
The Larkin Center building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places but has been vacant since 2013, Mylott said. All restoration and rehabilitation work must conform to historic rehabilitation standards established by the U.S. Department of Interior, he said. When completed, the building will have a community room, fitness center, library/study room, computer lab, laundry, storage and office space for the Association for Individual Development (AID), he said.
AID, based in Aurora with an office in Elgin, will have a full-time resident coordinator on site to help develop programs helping residents with things like financial counseling, tax preparation and connections to first-time home buyer programs for working families, officials said.
Redeveloping the center lets local residents with disabilities remain in the neighborhoods they know and love, Lindsey Haines, Full Circle’s vice president for real estate development, said earlier this month at an Elgin Planning and Zoning Commission hearing earlier this month.
“It’s amazing what a doorway that is wide enough, an elevator and accessible bathroom can do to change a person’s life,” Haines said at the time. “It’s so important because 94 percent of housing in Elgin was built before ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements and have limited” features for the disabled.
AID has 500 clients waiting for the right housing options, she said.
The project’s affordable housing units are available for people earning 30, 50 or 60 percent of the area median income, Mylott said.
“The rental market is tight in Elgin,” Haines said at the commission meeting. “It’s a squeeze on young families and those who are just starting out and want to live near the downtown. We know demand for housing is on the rise, but production isn’t keeping pace. West Elgin is growing in population, but only a 1.2 percent increase in units have been made available in the market area since 2010. Meanwhile, rents have increased by more than 10 percent in the last five years.”
Supporters and opponents attended the commission meeting, where concerns about parking, traffic, property values and the cost of city services were raised. One neighbor, Richard Sanders, obtained police reports from Carol Stream and McHenry, where Full Circle has properties. Carol Stream police responded to between 200 and 300 calls at the facility, he said at the meeting.
“Is the city ready to put that kind of additional demand on those who provide first responder services?” Sanders said.
Elgin council members heard from AID and Fox River Valley Initiative representatives at Wednesday’s meeting. No one opposing the project spoke at the council meeting.
Construction is expected to start this summer, Full Circle representatives said.