Group forms against Oak Park apartment project

Oak Park faction hopes to be heard on housing proposal debate

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By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

A group of Oak Park residents living near Madison Street has recently formed a neighborhood group, hoping to have a say on a proposed apartment building that has been a topic of concern in recent months. They'll join a disparate group of other neighborhood factions looking to shape the future of one of Oak Park's most eligible stretches of land.

Oak Park Citizens for Inclusionary Housing is a group of residents who recently banded together in reaction to a proposed 51-unit apartment building at 820 W. Madison for low-income individuals who live and work in Oak Park.

Among their charges, the group claims it's a bad idea to group a number of "poor" people into one building, rather than mixing people of diverse incomes. In a recently issued opinion piece on the development, they question whether there is even a demand for such a building in the community.

The group wants to see more information on how the project will affect safety here, according to the piece.

"I don't know whether it fits in Oak Park," said John Murtagh, one of the members of the group, who lives nearby on Oak Park Avenue. "Among the homeless people as a group, there are a lot of drug problems, a lot of mental problems, a lot of things like HIV. When you bring that in bulk into a neighborhood, it has to have some impact."

The building is being developed by the Chicago-based Interfaith Housing Development Corporation, in concert with the Oak Park Housing Authority and Catholic Charities. The former recently opened two similar buildings in Chicago, according to Perry Vietti, Interfaith's chief operating officer.

The developers have said that they are not targeting the project toward individuals who are homeless. Rather it's being built for single people earning $26,400 or less annually, who currently live with relatives or work in Oak Park but can't afford to live on their own. The developers claim there's demand in the village for such housing.

Vietti, who is also an Oak Park resident, disputed the group's charge that the building represents segregated housing and more than Oak Park's north neighborhoods filled with million-dollar mansions right next to each other, which can only be afforded by certain individuals, he said.

"I really don't buy that argument that it's segregated or exclusionary housing in some way," he said.

The village board referred the proposal to the Oak Park Plan Commission last week, which will hold the first hearing on Dec. 16. The project requires several variances from local zoning rules, as it is taller and denser than currently allowed.

Village Planner Craig Failor estimated that it will take about six meetings before the commission issues a recommendation to the village board.

Reader Comments

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john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 6:40 PM

The quotes in the WJ attributed to me are totally out of context. In our discussion I mentioned that the Mad. Av Housing was Supportive. He ask what that was. I told him HUD defines Supportive housing as being for homeless. He then asked why that would be a problem. I then quoted him Cook Cty. demographic statistic re Supportive housing including mental disease, etc. The way it showed up in the article it sounds like a statement made by me. I quoted statistics at his request - that's all.

kathleen from op  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 10:18 AM

No more zoning variances!! Why do we have zoning regulations if the trustees keep granting variances? This project creates unacceptable density in addition to all the other negative issues associated with this proposal. Trustees, please vote "NO".

OP Resident from Oak Park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2010 1:13 AM

FYI......Today the last of the Cabrini-Green residents moved out. / Boston Globe -- National News

OP Mom from undefined  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 10:00 PM

Dave Heidorn. I could not agree more. This "article" belongs on the editorial page"

Oak Park Citizens for Inclusionary Housing from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 8:15 PM

To clarify: Interfaith identified the Comcast Bldg proposal as Supportive Housing. Per HUD and Illinois Housing Development Authority definition this type of housing is for the homeless, people at risk of homelessness and people with disabilities. Cook County data correlates a high level of mental disease, drug and alcohol addiction and HIV/AIDS with these type of facilities. There are safety concerns for both the residents of the facility and for its neighbors that remain unaddressed.


Posted: December 1st, 2010 4:58 PM

@ "the neighborhood": I think you're on target about the PR value of this location for Interfaith with the COO living nearby. There have got to be many other buildings that would be less expensive to build out and sites that would not require so much environmental clean up.

the neighborhood  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 4:40 PM

If there are plenty of available units all over town, they should be considered first. This is the ethical thing to do. However, creating this will be a great pr move for those concerned, which seems to be the point. I was wondering if children were to be allowed in the building; this might add to an already growing problem with overcrowded schools in the area. Not to mention the occupants would not be contributing to the tax base.

Dave Heidorn from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 1:49 PM

Mr. Stempniak - Please be a real journalist and ask tough questions instead of pushing your paper's effort to color opposition to this development as simply opposing "poor" people entirely out of context. Did you ask the developers to prove up their claim of a "demand" in the village for such housing? No one has seen any proof of that demand, especially the large majority opposed to the project. The Fourth Estate serves as a check on insider deals by powers that be. Please do your job.


Posted: December 1st, 2010 12:25 PM

Vietti's reasoning in dismissing the segregation point seems flawed. No matter how people sugarcoat it, there's no denying that historically there have been problems resulting from high density low-income housing. Also, the "million-dollar mansions" he notes were created by market forces, not as a subsidized -- in this case federal dollars and local variances -- development.

Pave paridise  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 10:13 AM

Unfortunately the village would demolish it and make it another parking lot not a park. Or better yet buy it and own yet another building in the village. However, there is no need for more low income housing in OP.

W. from oak park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 9:30 AM

What type of rent would be charged and what other village options are there - condos for sale with rent to buy option or renting already available affordable properties - work with what we already have instead of creating a "project".


Posted: December 1st, 2010 8:22 AM

I agree! DEMOLISH THE BUILDING! Make it into a small park! NO AFFORDABLE HOUSING!

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 8:19 AM

I agree that the idea of purchasing condos throughout the village would be preferable for all concerned. It would, however, be more work for the agency which is sponsoring this project. I presume that there are economies of scale when managing a medium or large, low-income public housing project that are not present when managing scattered site public housing. I would also note that there is plenty of low-cost housing stock in Austin available for purchase.

Buy existing condos  

Posted: December 1st, 2010 12:46 AM

Look at OP's MLS condo listings, there are currently more than 20 1bedroom units that could be purchased for $60k or less, spread all over town. This would require an income of about $21k a year. Affordable housing is already here.

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