Developers answer questions about tenant mix for proposed Madison apartment building in Oak Park

Who would live in the Comcast building?

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

Tensions simmered during the second of a series of Oak Park Plan Commission hearings on an apartment project being proposed for Madison Street and Oak Park Avenue.

In the second go-round, developers responded to questions from residents in the surrounding neighborhood. Many focused on the low-income tenants who would be living in the 51-unit complex, formerly an office building for Comcast.

Where will these people come from? Will they have felony records? What type of supportive services will be made available to them? Is there really and truly a demand for such a affordable housing?

"You've presented only the best-case scenario; you have had this dream, fairy-tale population," said Amy Pappageorge, who lives on the 400 block of South Grove, just north of the development. Later she asked, "How can you state as a fact that this will represent this high-quality, best-case scenario?"

Chicago-based Interfaith Housing Development is hoping to purchase the long-vacant building at 820 W. Madison. They plan to gut it, strip off the façade and add two floors to transform the property into something resembling its original appearance from the 1920s when it was a Cadillac auto dealership designed by architect Albert Kahn. Interfaith is partnering with the Oak Park Housing Authority and Catholic Charities to make the project happen.

The target tenants of the $704 per month rental units, developers say, are single people, most of whom would live or work in the village already, but who can't afford to live here now. Such occupants could earn no more than $26,300 a year and could, at most, have only one child under the age of 18.

"I'm not going to represent to you that every one of the tenants who will move into this 51-unit building will be the best tenant that Oak Park has ever seen," Ed Solan, head of the housing authority, said in response to Pappageorge's question. "That would be foolish and naïve on my part to say that. But if we do have problem tenants, we will deal with them, and I expect that the overwhelming majority of tenants in the building will be outstanding."

While their preference will be to pick people who live or work here, the developers say they will not require it. Most likely, as they have done in other buildings, it will be a certain percentage of local residents — something like 9 of 10 or 6 of 7, Solan said.

Catholic Charities is in the partnership to provide "supportive services" to the tenants. But developers attempted to ease worries about such offerings. Eileen Higgins, associate vice president of Catholic Charities, said support would likely be focused on helping tenants to get better-paying jobs — such as employment training. Services would also be made available for persons with disabilities.

Solan also emphasized that the developers would screen out tenants with major felonies on their records — such as drug abusers, arsonists or people with any history of violence against others. They'd be referred to other buildings with a higher intensity of services, Higgins said.

Tenants would need to have some form of steady income and would not be provided with rent subsidies, said Perry Vietti, chief operating officer for Interfaith. Solan said there are 200 on the housing authority's waiting list, people who live or work here and would qualify to get in the building.

Residents questioned the need for such housing in Oak Park, wondering why the building couldn't house families or a mix of people with different incomes. On the other side, developers said they would need to build much higher to accommodate whole households, and they need to go all low-income to get enough tax credits to make the numbers work.

Bill McDermott expressed concern that, because of those tax credits, the developer would be required to keep the building filled with low-income tenants for decades.

"Are you concerned about the fact that, for 40 years, if something goes bad in this building, you can't change anything?" he said.

Gladys Jordan, president of Interfaith, said they could change, but it would require paying off their loans ahead of schedule, which likely "isn't realistic." The housing authority, which will likely own the property, is committed, long term, to affordable housing, she said.

The plan commission is expected to conduct its next hearing on Jan. 20, when residents will continue to question the developers.

Reader Comments

56 Comments - Add Your Comment

Comment Policy

Jeana in Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2011 8:35 PM

I live in this neighborhood, and I support this building. Jeana Reisig

OP Mom  

Posted: January 17th, 2011 4:56 PM

Gabe, fortunately this is not up to Interfaith. It is up to our volunteer and elected representatives. I truly hope they are listening. The facts being presented by the applicants just don't add up - especially if you consider what might happen to/in this building over decades. Furthermore, if we don't learn from past well intentioned mistakes (e.g. segregating people of low income by putting them all in one building vs. mixed income housing) we are both naive and foolish.

Gabe from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2011 3:07 PM

I honestly believe that this project is for the good of Oak Park. Also to everyone who is trying to chang Interfaiths Housing Developments mind should quiet. They stoped listening to you long ago. Its up to the village trusties . As for my personal opinion on this project. I see little cons. The men and women who are moving in are going to have back round searches. The people who will be moving in are people with finacial troubles. I dont see any reason for anyone to be conserned.

Dave Heidorn from Oak Park  

Posted: January 17th, 2011 10:45 AM

It's important to note the WJ's propaganda effort for Interfaith. Marty's careful use of "apartment" and not low income housing is interesting. So is the full-page propaganda for the project in the unsolicited WJ mailer we all get that links the project to its "Cadillac" past. Wonder if OP real estate firms who pay for the mailer join with WJ in supporting lower property values around the project. We already know WJ cares little for the views of its customers seeking real, fair journalism.

Chuck from Oak Park  

Posted: January 16th, 2011 9:44 PM

I believe we have enough problems being situated next to the 15th district of Chicago, why would the village invite more potential problems. The neighbors surrounding this proposed development are willing to pay hefty taxes so why should they be subjected to lower socioeconomic groups who cannot afford to live in this area. Wilmette must need some low-income tenants for diversity.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 15th, 2011 10:49 PM

The only member of the board that posts comments regularly and by name is Ray Johnson. I am not sure that I have seen any old board members names on a WJ post. Also there is no rules saying you have to post your real name or any name for that matter. As far as reading posts, I think most do read the posts.

Chris  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 10:52 AM

I'll suggest one better, Resident. The next public meeting is one week from today, Thursday, 1/20 at 7PM at Village Hall on Madison. As part of the agenda for this meeting thy will accept a 5 minute statement for, against or undecided on the development from any Oak Park resident who attends and signs up at the start of the meeting. You can certainly e-mail a written statement in to the board, but it's more powerful to show up and give your statement live.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: January 13th, 2011 9:57 AM

This is an interesting discussion and I appreciate the local paper providing this outlet, but does the Planning Commission or Board pay attention to this discussion boards? I hope people send letters or attend the meetings. I plan to send a letter. (I also appreciate the sharing of information here.)

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 12th, 2011 6:34 PM

NIOOP - I find NIMBY an offensive racist word in a similar manner that Trustee Lueck finds CHA offensive. So I have officially become a NIOOP - Not In Our Oak Park.

Count me in for NIMBY  

Posted: January 11th, 2011 1:47 AM

Taxpayer, call me cynical but so far as I can see the goal here is line the pockets of the developers and not really do any favors to anyone else, the residents of the housing project, the local residents, or the village.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 8:24 PM

TO TAX PAYER - I googled Oak Park Village Mission Statement and found that there are a lot of Oak Park mission statements, but none for the village in the first 30 entries. I then used the village website's search feature for Oak Park Mission Statement and found no entry on the first page. Is it possible that the Oak Park Vision Statement is a confidential document? As far as THIS IS OAK PARK, WE CAN MAKE IT WORK. I am not certain that everyone living in the village is convinced of that.

Chris  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 8:20 PM

@Tax Payer: Actually, it already works here. Per a village funded study, 35% of Oak Park's total housing units are already affordable. This ranks at least 10% better than any other suburb cited in the study. Where's the NIMBY in that? The village's AI report, a product of our Diversity Statement, shows primary need for affordable housing for families, those with disabilities and the elderly. The neighbors would more openly embrace a development that serves one of those proven needs.

john murtagh from OAK PARK  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 8:07 PM

RESPONSE TO FACT PLEASE - The Madison Avenue Master Plan showed the Comcast site as a four story building. That is not inconsistent with the plans for the four corners at Madison and Oak Park Avenue which anticipates several large retail businesses. The Plan did not identify any restriction for the property's use. My understanding is that The Madison Avenue Coalition approved the project though there is no record of what it approved in the minutes on the Oak Park website.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 8:01 PM

RESPONSE TO FACT PLEASE - No one on the board or the commission had any involvement in the development plan or process for the Madison Ave Housing Proposal that I know of. Ed Solan, head of the Oak Park Housing Authority and a member of the Madison Ave Coalition recused himself from the approval vote on the project but did make the proposal presentation to the Coalition. 2 board members of the Oak Park Housing Authority recused themselves from votes on the project. No reason was given.

Tax Payer  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 7:48 PM

YIMBY......This IS Oak Park. We can make it work. It clearly works in other places. Dont loose sight of what they are trying to do. Reread the Village mission statement.

Chris  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 7:38 PM

I thought it might be useful to some to provide more information on the meetings held thus far. The public documentation on the hearings, including the developer's application, can be found at http://www.oak-park.us/planning/, then look to the right for the Interfaith links.

DJ  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 2:39 PM

As others have noted, concentrated low-income housing has been discredited in many respects. The very point of Section 8 housing is to distribute low-income or subsidized housing to that lower-income people will be integrated into economically diverse neighborhoods. It's hard to see any point in this proposal for concentrated low-income housing other than the interests of the developer(s).

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 1:23 PM

This sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. It would be just as easy to purchase a few two-flat buildings, scattered about the Chicagoland area, and offer "affordable housing" that way. There's no need for a 51 unit building to be operated with the *good faith* that everything will turn out for the best. Faith is great! But there's no need to abandon common sense for the sake of it.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 11:24 AM

I understand that it would be easier for caseworkers to make visits in one building but Oak Park is not that large. This is not a valid reason not to develop a scattered site proposal using existing vacancies. And, again, if these are low income working single parents with one child--why do they need "caseworker visits." Many of us were low-income working parents when starting out. We didn't need "caseworker visits" to manage our lives or find better jobs. The developers are not being honest.

Juan Gonzalez from Oak Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2011 9:23 AM

Whom are those that say we need more concenctrated low income housing in Oak Park aside from the interfaith charities that are spearheading this development?

OP Mom  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 11:18 PM

There are over 100 single units available in Oak Park as of November/December 2010. The applicants stated that using those units was not cost effective for providing services. I would get that if they were providing 24x7 services, but I believe the services they will provide are case worker visits. Not sure that argument holds water.

Facts Please  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 9:33 PM

Please direct me to ACTUAL numbers for OAK PARK apartments. With all due respect - HUGE - is an emotional response and renders your response useless and silly. Let's start with facts and go from there - you might even be right. While you are at, please direct to where a project like this appeared in the Madison Street master plan/TIF projections.

Another Oak Park Resident  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 8:17 PM

Oak Park Resident, seriously? I have an idea. Let's just vacate Oak Park and move all of your mentioned tens of thousands in. Oak Park could then take care of all of Western Cook County's housing problems. That would solve everything for everyone, huh?

Oak Park Resident  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 5:42 PM

Mr. Facts, there is an endless demand for Section 8, unemployed parent, child with medical/social problems space. Please add handicap schooling and convenient medical care. The demand could be in the ten's of thousands in West Cook County. This could be huge!! We should get in on it. There is a huge demand!

Facts Please  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 1:57 PM

I know this has been asked but don't know if it been anwsered - what is the supply/demand of rental units at this price range located in Oak Park?

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 12:28 PM

To I'm Curious: My understanding is that the Village Staff is for this project. Also, I read in an article (that I can't find now--if someone knows, please answer) that either a member of the Planning Commission or the Board is also a member of one of the groups proposing this project. As I remember it, the article said he is recused from the discussions. (If I'm mistaken about this, my apologies.)

I'm curious  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 11:07 AM

Just about everyone seems to hate this idea. So outside the developers who seemingly are highly motivated by profits, who actually wants this thing? If this set of comments is indicative, why hasn't this been killed off yet?

Chris  

Posted: January 9th, 2011 8:35 AM

@Tax Payer: Are you blindly endorsing this development, or have you actually taken the time to read the application, attend the meetings and truly understand both the pro and con arguments? I'm all for inclusion. That's why I live here. A development w/ 51 low income units is actually segregated housing and completely against the current paradigm in low income housing. The only thing you should be sorry for is throwing a cheap shot like "NIMBY" without understanding your neighbors concerns.

Ken Shabby from London, England  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 11:09 PM

Can't We All Just Get Along?

All for NIMBY  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 9:05 PM

Hey taxpayer I bet if it was in your back yard you'd hop off that high horse. Please define inclusive? You're okay with diminishing your property values? Flooding the area with cars that have no designated parking? An influx of non-taxpayers stuffing the schools with dozens of additional kids on your dime?Your moral fortitude to the detriment of your family and neighbors is admirable!

Roger Reckers from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 7:15 PM

I have known Amy Pappageorge for 14 years. She is one of the most socially conscious, fair-minded, community-oriented people I have ever known. If she has a serious concern about this program, then I believe the community should re-examine the merits of this project.

Tax Payer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 7:07 PM

Stop the NIBY attitude!! This is OP and we are inclusive. Sorry

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 6:35 PM

51 units is too many for that small space. The number 51 is bec that is the minimum needed for govt funding, not because it makes sense. The pkg is inadequate. The street pkg permits in this area are always sold out, and the new residents would not be eligible for permits--unless they go through a govt process to increase the permit area. No thought on how this will affect the traffic at Madison and Oak Park Ave. Plus retail on the 1st floor won't have designated pkg. It's a bad plan.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 4:43 PM

It is not clear that tenants will have to be employed to rent in this building, although initially, project developers claimed this was housing for the working poor. It now appears that non-working individuals with vouchers will be accepted. It seems highly possible that this will not be a building of working class single parents with one child. It could well be a building of nonworking adults with one child living off various welfare programs. The project has not been honestly portrayed.

Ron from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 3:16 PM

Under 26K income means Section 8. So the tenants would only pay a portion of the $704 rent. The rest is paid by the gov't or our tax dollars. It can be as little as $50 out of the tenants pocket. I have a great section 8 tenant in the city, but the baggage that comes with it can be tough to deal with at times. Seems like this building will be almost all section 8.

Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 12:26 PM

Also see the 1-7-11 TribLocal story on this mtg. It has to have retail space: "The developer's retail consultant, Jason Schultz, has not shied away from telling the commission that filling the space will be challenging. When asked if he would recommend such a space to one of his own clients looking to invest in commercial retail, he simply responded that he would not."

Paul Obis from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 12:07 PM

I agree with Amy Pappageorge. We have a housing glut and not enough available units for senior citizens. This project seems so ill-conceived. What drives the idea to retrofit the building so that is looks like a car dealership from the 1920's? What a waste of resources in a troubled economy in a community that has too-high taxes? Why concentrate low-income residents? Didn't we just get rid of Cabrini Green? Moreover $703/mo is imprudently expensive for single people with incomes in the $20K's

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 11:54 AM

This topic thread is about the Comcast building proposal not about taxes. However, the Journal should cover the Democrats' proposal as applies to Oak Park. Replacing the property tax credit with a flat $325 will negatively affect property taxpayers paying more than about $6500-that includes many Oak Parkers. This is especially true if this spring's referendum passes and property taxes rise again. Add a 2.25 point income tax increase on the middle class. Wow. Who can afford to live here.

C.L  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 8:10 AM

Regarding the State's choice and his views of the proposed 75% State Income tax increase contact our home town State Senator on your views at (708) 848-2002 and email dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov He works for us.

C.L  

Posted: January 8th, 2011 7:54 AM

75% INCREASE in Taxes - yes, that is the number that Dan Harmon from Oak Park is supporting to keep his Leadership post in the Senate. Contact Harmon and tell him how you feel, and when you do, tell him to put the heat on the Village Board that the so called Development will only LOWER all of our Property Values. We need Development that will bring in growth. There is a reason why Chicago tore down all these type of Housing. Only causes problems -- and this one is a disaster.

Anne: a few blocks east  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 11:09 PM

Joe,%uFFFD I moved here to get away from privately run slums. I have small kids. I have a house that has already declined in value. Spirit of Oak Park, how close to this instantghetto are you? I have a family and a frail economic interest in a depreciating house to protect. How hard is it for you to understand why I am not excited about supporting people to the detriment of my family's safety, our fiscal well being, further overcrowding of our schools (which will inevitably breed higher property taxes). What is hard to understand about that?

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 10:03 PM

Joe McDonald -- I can understand where you are coming from. I am very proud of OP's commitment to open housing and fighting poverty. The problem in this case is that the developers and sponsors have created a program that no one asked for and cobbled together a poorly crafted proposal that has more holes than swiss cheese. Finally, spending over ten million dollars to build fifty rooms with some four hundred square ft. makes little sense. We owe low wage people dignity as well as a bed.

Bob from oak park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 9:47 PM

This is about developers, architects and construction companies looking to make huge fees and chasing government funding available for low income housing projects like the one proposed. All done under the guise of "helping the poor". Large corporations also benefit from the tax credits they receive for being investors. The real need in Oak Park is housing for poor families. Large two and three bedroom units. There are plenty of one bedrooms and studio already available and affordable now!

Amy Pappageorge  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 7:37 PM

The estimated cost to build this housing project is over $10 million dollars. Given this country's vast budget deficit, given the glut of availabl housing in Oak Park with over 100 1 bedroom empty apartments, over a hundred 1 bedroom condos on the market, and over 100 one bedroom condos in foreclosure, is this a wise use American tax payer dollars and our earth's resources? Is this truly "affordable" housing?

Amy Pappageorge  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 7:31 PM

According to a recent Oak Park Township report, Oak Park doesn't have enough rental housing for senior citizens. The study showed that Oak Park is short by about 50 apartments for low-income seniors. There are over 200 when you add seniors in neighboring communities. I share the view with my neighbors and many others in Oak Park that the Comcast building should serve this senior population. Indeed, with the Oak Park Arms a block away, this is an ideal location as the residents could benefit from the wealth of quality programs available for free at the Arms. Why won't the developers designate this as a senior building and thus earn the support of the community?

lmao  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 6:44 PM

James gurgled: "YOUR A MORON." Now that's an instant classic.

James  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 6:08 PM

LIZ: YOUR A MORON.

James  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 6:06 PM

I hope this will not pass!!!!!!!!!!!!! Get rid of the building!

Joe McDonald from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 5:26 PM

I challenge the "wort case scenario" tenor of many of the objectors to this project. Do they forget what kind of community Oak Park is? It successfully: provides for the homeless (PADS), it feeds the hungry (Food and Pantry Program), counsels the needy (Drop-in Center), and does many other things for those who are vulnerable. Why would anyone think that our community could not successfully manage this low income housing development?

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 4:58 PM

When they get a raise to, say, $28,000 a year, or have a second baby, they will be kicked out? Please. If this turns into a high-density slum (remember the Chicago housing projects ) it is Oak Park residents who will have to pay to sort this out. Increased police protection, more expensive social services, higher educational costs, the whole works. This is a good project for a wealthy area w/little affordable housing. Oak Park has plenty of affordable housing already for the target group.

Bill  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 4:32 PM

There is no lack of affordable studios or 1 bedroom apartments in Oak Park. There is however a shortage of affordable multi-bedroom rental apartments. Look on-line or in the paper you will find very few 2-3 bedrooms.This project is a solution looking for a problem that does not exist in Oak Park. I hope people in Oak Park understand that large multi-nationals will buy tax credits that will be used to fund this project and in doing so they reduce the multi-nationals fedral tax laibility.

W. from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 3:19 PM

There are studio apts. available for 650 -700; so why build? Why not work with landlords placing in available affordable units & rent available retail space as a home base with which to provide the supportive services component?

JMK from Forest Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 3:00 PM

Wow, with that salary standard, I could live there. Times have changed, many of us "regular" folk need buildings ike this. And I don't think anyone would be afraid of me...Now, if I could just get a job.

OP MOM  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 2:53 PM

Check out the article at the bottom of the page listed below for a very interesting viewpoint on the Comcast building question: http://www.thebuzzcafe.com/news.html

Liz from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 2:38 PM

I truly believe that this project can be well-managed. There is a crying need for affordable housing by the working poor. All of those fo

J. Fischer from Oak Park  

Posted: January 7th, 2011 2:25 PM

Is it really interfaith, are Jews and Muslim welcome there or by interfaith do they mean different Christian denominations?

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