Roosevelt Square gets OK to construct two apartment buildings
April 5, 2013
Roosevelt Square developers are closer to building two apartment buildings that would have 120 for-rent units.

By Susan S. Stevens

With Ald. Danny Solis (25th Ward) and Jason Ervin (28th Ward) saying they will endorse construction of two apartment buildings with a combined 120 units, Roosevelt Square construction is almost set to resume.

The developer’s Phase 2A, which contains the two mostly marketrate rental buildings as well as lowrise for-sale houses, depends on Chicago City Council approval of an extended tax increment financing (TIF) district. Solis and Ervin said they will support the measure because they believe community concers about the apartment buildings have turned from negative to positive in the last two years.

Related Midwest, the developer, set a target date of July 13 for a City Council vote. The current TIF’s maximum is 23 years, with its tax advantages scheduled to expire in 2021 unless the City Council approves an extension; officials are seeking an extension to 35 years. Finishing Roosevelt Square will take several more years, with no completion date on the horizon for the project’s 2,441 dwellings because of a roughly three-year hiatus caused by the recession. So far, workers have built about 600 houses and apartments. Solis and Ervin said Related Midwest has created a plan that area residents accept.

Solis has favored the TIF extension all along but had reservations about the apartment buildings until recently because many local residents objected. “I think there is more flexibility” in the community than there was previously, Solis said after a neighborhood gathering Feb. 27 at Saint Ignatius College Prep.

Ervin support

Ervin, new to the City Council, said he studied the issue thoroughly before he decided to support the extension. “There needs to be a balance in the development,” Ervin said, and he feels Phase 2A proposal provides it. Phase 2A calls for two apartment buildings, with about 60 units each, on Roosevelt Road at Laflin and Loomis Streets, 1255 and 1355 W. Roosevelt Rd. Of those, 96 will be market rate rentals and 24 will be subsidized housing. The market rate units will rent for around $1,250 a month for a studio, Related Midwest President Curt Bailey said.

Elsewhere in the Roosevelt Square area in Phase 2A, workers will construct 20 for-sale houses on Grenshaw Street and a community center at Roosevelt Road and Throop Street. Mike Kelly, sales manager, said the center will have offices for community services, development management, community meeting rooms, and a large multi-purpose room.

Despite talk about building a hotel and other businesses north of Taylor Street, Kelly said nothing has been planned or negotiated. “We are always looking at things that will enhance the neighborhood,” he said. “It is not something we are focused on now.” He added that such additions would be “up to the community to decide.”

At the meeting, several residents said they favor the plan.

“There is a huge demand for rental” housing, one man said, adding he feels a lot of the current rental housing is so “terrible” that it is beneath “even the standards of college students.”

Ron Whitmore, principal of Smyth Elementary School, said continued development of Roosevelt Square offers an opportunity to build a cohesive and consistent community.

A spokesperson for construction workers on earlier phases said he and his colleagues look forward resuming work after more than three idle years during the recession.

“We hope to be working on the next phase,” he said. A 50-year resident complained about “all this bull” at meetings over the last 12 years and is anxious to see progress.

A woman who bought a $290,000 unit said she is upset about what she called “shoddy” work, complaining about hearing a woman who lives upstairs because there are no noise barriers, leaks in her windows, and other problems. “I am stuck,” she said. Solis said he would look into the complaints and requested a progress report at the next meeting, which remains to be scheduled.

Opponents ‘discouraged’

Several long-time opponents of the apartment buildings did not speak at the meeting. Michael Phillips said afterward that opponents have become discouraged, “primarily due to the lack of concern and, more importantly, engagement from others in the community.”

His group had met with Solis, Ervin, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd), and Related Midwest officials in an effort to reach a “mutual goal,” Phillips said. Phillips alleged, however, that developers “quit talking” with his group, with the last contact an email exchange Dec. 12.

Phillips urged area residents to write or visit their aldermen to discuss the matter further. He also suggested residents install better lighting and possibly wireless cameras outside their dwellings to identify criminal activity and deter crime. Bill O’Connor, who led a petition drive against the apartments two and a half years ago, is not ready to go that route again but still feels concerned. “Mike took the group’s words and formed cohesive thoughts,” O’Connor noted.