Roosevelt Square hoping to construct apartment buildings
July 5, 2012
Roosevelt Square developers hope to build two apartment buildings that would have 120 for-rent units.

By Susan S. Stevens

Roosevelt Square’s developer, Related Midwest, hopes to build two apartment buildings providing 120 for-rent units.

In its plans, the company increased the proportion of market rate apartments to 80%, with the remainder affordable or low-income housing. The previous proportion was 75% to 25%. Related Midwest also changed the exterior designs. Opposition to the apartment buildings has stalled construction since mid-2010.

The company announced the 80/20 mix a meeting in April. Another community meeting, open to the public, will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame, 1431 W. Taylor St. “Our meeting will be similar in scope to the meeting two years ago at the Sports Hall of Fame that many of you attended, but there will be much more detail about what Roosevelt Square is and how it fits into a larger community strategy involving access to public education and other issues, including how we as a community can engage to ensure its complete success,” said Dennis O’Neill, executive director of Connecting 4 Communities, a local community group.

O’Neill said he was not endorsing the changes nor speaking for his group about them but added that “Related took a number of concerns that people had and addressed them very seriously. It’s now the third design, and that’s positive. They now have amix that works well: 80/20.”

At a meeting two years ago, numerous residents around Roosevelt Square objected to plans for the two apartment buildings.

“We have heard the neighborhood’s concerns,” said Mike Kelly, director of sales andmarketing for Roosevelt Square. “Changes are directly in line with what the community asked for.”

Nearby residents requested building facades fit better with neighborhood architecture. Related Midwest has redesigned the buildings’ facades to meet that concern, said Kerry Dickson, the company’s senior vice president.

The new design resembles that of a building on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Road and Racine Avenue. The five-story buildings at 1255 and 1355 W. Roosevelt Rd. are “a building type that we have done successfully all over the country,” Dickson said. Market-rate rental units likely would cost $1,050 amonthfor a studio, with higher rents for one- and two-bedroom apartments, Dickson said. Public housing residents would pay 30% of their income.

Rental units would have comfortable interiors.
Ahlam Khouri, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) development manager for Roosevelt Square, noted the two buildings are the first market-rate rental proposed in Roosevelt Square and that they would be “higher end” rental property.

Officials said the buildings would target medical center employees and graduate students as renters. Related Midwest hopes they will like the area enough that they eventually buy houses in Roosevelt Square.

The project needs different house and apartment types, sizes, and prices to bring diversity to the community, a requirement for reusing the CHA land, Dickson noted.

To move forward, developers need the CHA and City Council to sign on, according to both Matt Aguilar, CHA spokesperson, and James Isaacs, CHA director of real estate development.

“The developer is still working on their proposal and plans,” Isaacs said. “We are working with them but have not signed off on it.”

The project also needs a tax increment financing (TIF) district extension to allow City-funded infrastructure improvements. The current TIF was created in 1998 and runs 23 years; Related Midwest seeks an additional 12 years, to 2035, to provide time for finishing the master plan for 2,441 dwellings.

So far, it has completed 591 dwellings. The year 2035 is the projected date for completion of Phase 6 of Roosevelt Square, which currently is at the Phase 2 stage.

“Putting the TIF extension in place is critical for anything,” Dickson said.

“I think the TIF extension has delayed this project, not the other way around,” Khouri said. “We are just kind of stuck now. It is not moving forward until we get approval from the community, CHA, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, and the City.”

The Illinois General Assembly agreed to the TIF extension, and developers hope Aldermen Robert Fioretti (2nd) and Daniel Solis (25th) will submit the TIF extension to the City Council. Aldermen have been reluctant because of opposition to the two apartment buildings.

Fioretti two years ago wrote a letter of support, but Solis has not taken a stand; Dickson said Solis has been studying the matter. The buildings would be in Fioretti’s current ward boundaries, but when the new aldermanic map goes into effect in three years they would be in Solis’s ward. Both aldermen declined to comment for this article.

Related Midwest planned the apartments after the for-sale housing market collapsed and demand for rentals grew. “There has not been any new construction of new apartments in this neighborhood for 30 years,” Kelly said. “The fact there are no new rental units will drive the demand.”

Another issue that might arise in Roosevelt Square is a tentative plan for a hotel, apartment, and retail complex between Taylor Street and Arrigo Park. “We have heard discussions and proposals,” Dickson said. “There has not been anything concrete.”

Oscar D’Angelo, a board member and founder of the University Village Association, favors the hotel project, which he said would include 190,000 feet of retail space with apartments and rooms above. “I hope it becomes a reality,” D’Angelo said.