55-Unit Affordable Apartment Complex Proposed for Portage Park
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By Heather Cherone | January 25, 2016 6:06am
PORTAGE PARK — A plot of land that has been vacant for more than 10 years would be transformed into a 55-unit apartment complex designed to house veterans and those struggling to find affordable housing, officials said.
Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) will host a community meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Reinberg Elementary School, 3425 N. Major Ave., to discuss the $17 million project proposed by Full Circle Communities, a Chicago-based affordable housing developer, at Central and Waveland avenues.
Initial plans call for approximately 20 percent of the apartments to be set aside for veterans, project manager Lindsey Haines said. The rest of the apartments would be designed to be affordable for families earning about $45,000 per year, or about 60 percent of Chicago’s Area Median Income based on the size of the family.
“Many residents in Portage Park are feeling crunched by housing costs,” Haines said, adding. “This project is designed to help them.”
Villegas, who asked officials with Full Circle to hold the meeting before applying for city permits or state low-income tax credits to finance its construction, said he would wait to hear the reaction of nearby residents before deciding whether to support the proposal.
“I don’t want to take this decision lightly,” Villegas said. “This is a big project.”
Dubbed The Central, the complex at 3655 N. Central Ave., would be the second project in Chicago for Full Circle, which just finished building a similar apartment complex in Avondale designed for residents with motor and sensory disabilities.
Full Circle has completed projects in the western suburbs as well as in Florida and Iowa. The Northwest Side Housing Center is also involved in the project.
The company plans to spend $1.5 million to provide services to the complex’s residents during the first 10 years after the project is completed, Haines said.
Working with the Jesse Brown Veterans Affairs Medical Center as well as the Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital, the complex would offer services to veterans to help them access medical and psychological care as needed, Haines said.
Services offered to all residents will include credit counseling and programs designed to help those interested to buy a house, Haines said.
The complex would also have a community room, fitness center, library and computer lab, company officials said.
Villegas said he had been working to market the narrow property next to a CVS drugstore and across the street from Community First Medical Center, formerly known as Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital.
“I wanted a grocery store there, like a Mariano’s Express,” said Villegas, who was elected to the City Council in April.
But a restriction on the property’s deed — placed there when Dominick’s closed and the property was sold — prohibits food from being sold on the land, Villegas said.
The property was part of the 38th Ward until the election, when Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) defeated six challengers to replace former Ald. Tim Cullerton, who retired.
From 2011-15, Sposato represented the 36th Ward, which saw its boundaries change significantly once the new map went into effect.
“This is a fact-finding meeting,” Villegas said. “I want to get as many smart people in the room and see if this is something that should be done.”
The project would include 18 one-bedroom units, nine two-bedroom units and six four-bedroom units, company officials said.
It could start construction as early as spring 2017, and would be designed to be energy-efficient, company officials said.
If the project moves forward, it would likely need a zoning change, which would require a series of public meetings, Villegas said.
News of the proposal sparked a heated discussion on EveryBlock, with some posts criticizing the alderman for not doing a better job of publicizing the meeting via his website and social media accounts.
“I’m trying to be a transparent as possible,” said Villegas, who apologized on EveryBlock for not better using the Internet to get the word out about the meeting.
Many of the comments expressed concern about the project, saying it was too dense, would lower property values and increase crime in the area. Others said they were concerned that it would snarl traffic and making parking impossible near Central Avenue and Addison Street.