CHA officials open to discussions on Roosevelt Square changes
July 4, 2013

Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) officials indicated new flexibility on long-term plans for developing the Roosevelt Square mixed-income community, saying they are willing to talk.

Connecting4Communities, a neighborhood group, is pressing for construction of a public high school. The University Village Association, another neighborhood group, has received sketchy reports of other developers interested in building a hotel and luxury housing and shops.

“CHA is open to discussions surrounding feasible projects that meet our goals of building strong, vibrant communities and increasing the quality of life for CHA residents,” spokesperson Matt Aguilar said. When asked about constructing a high school on the land or using part of the site for a hotel and luxury housing, Aguilar responded the CHA is open to other uses of CHA land “in some cases,” explaining that “CHA has received interest in its land at Roosevelt Square for alternative uses, however, CHA does not have a full proposal to review for either of the items raised.”

A high school, library, food market, theater, community center, boys and girls club, and Buddhist center are among proposed amenities in designs created for Roosevelt Square by architectural students at the University of Notre Dame.

The students worked with Ron Sakal and Sallie Hood, graduates of the University of Illinois at Chicago and now professors at Notre Dame who co-direct its Center for Building Communities.

The students created the Roosevelt Square renderings for their senior theses after making repeated trips to the Near West Side to study the development project’s still vacant land. The students presented drawings and explained details at a May 9 meeting of Connecting4Communities, said the group’s executive director, Dennis O’Neill.

Unlike the current development plans, the students’ drawings feature many more medium height residential structures, allowing for more open space. The students also propose modular construction for some apartment buildings, including luxury units, because that approach would make the buildings as strong as any others yet easier and cheaper to build, according to the students.

A representative from Roosevelt Square’s developer, Related Midwest, attended the meeting, although, the company declined to comment on the student proposals. Mike Kelly, sales and marketing director, said the company expected the City Council to approve extending the tax increment financing district this summer, with construction resuming as soon as possible afterward.

— Susan S. Stevens