All kinds of housing

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By Dan Haley

Editor and Publisher

As a kid I delivered the Chicago's American, a failing afternoon paper owned by the Trib. My route stretched along Austin Boulevard from Madison to Lake and I met all manner of folks as I tossed papers onto porches and into lobbies and tried mightily to heave papers to third floor back porches of the apartment houses.

One of my stops was the Chateau Hotel. On Austin just a bit south of South Boulevard. Maybe it was a real hotel once. By the time I encountered it, the Chateau was a landing place for an intriguing batch of souls. The souls who took the American were very old souls. I'd ride the rickety elevator up to one floor and then another, dropping papers in hallways.

That was the mid-1960s. Not more than a few years later, the Chateau started turning up regularly in the police blotter in the Oak Park World. Prostitution and drug dealing had squeezed the old white widows out the door to who knows where and Oak Park had a legitimate crime hot spot.

The solution was for the Oak Park Residence Corporation to boldly buy the building and convert it into subsidized housing, mainly for seniors and people with disabilities. Now I live two blocks from The Oaks and it is a mainstay of the neighborhood.

A decade ago, the Residence Corporation built the Ryan Farrelly Apartments a block south of my house. This was a custom job just for the disabled.

Twenty years back, Seguin Services wanted to buy a home on East Avenue as a sort of halfway house for young people with various disabilities. A lot of neighbors went nuts. Now I can't even pick out which house it is. And Seguin and other similar agencies have multiple other single family homes around the community for similar good purpose.

PADS has 20 apartments in Oak Park that are used in a transitional housing program either to keep families from becoming homeless or to get families back on the path to being independent. Not sure where those are. Same thing with Sarah's Inn, the shelter for people in abusive relationships.

Mills Park Tower and Heritage House have been around 30 years offering tall towers filled with government subsidized housing, mainly for elders. The YMCA still has its SRO units which attract a mixed bag of men in a lot of different circumstances. Then there are the hundreds of Section 8 apartments. They're scattered across Oak Park but, on the other hand, the village has a greater concentration than most any town.

Next we'll likely have the 51 units of affordable housing for working people over on Madison Street. There's some tension over it. That's kind of how this works. It's a process. One that makes us stronger.

It's a lot of housing options. Put it all together and it feels like home.

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Posted: April 20th, 2011 3:27 PM

to see rows of 50's & 60's Cadillacs and Buicks. Must have been a great place and time to live. Fast forward to present and there is nothing left of this street. Go to the future 30 years. Low income housing and dollar stores The village should look back before going forward.


Posted: April 20th, 2011 3:25 PM

You know what is sad, that this article is exactly right. They will build this silly project even though there are multiple reasons why it should not be built, and in another 5 years all will be forgotton because there will be another big controversy to cry about. What will be left is the miserable people inside and around the project. There is another article on the WJ talking about Madison Ave when all the dealerships were here. Can you imagine how cool it would have been to continued..

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 2:23 PM

Hi Epic - There are a lot more issue involved including availability of financing, parking, resident profiles, security, use of commercial land, traffic, impact on local business, marketability of units, and total lack of forthrightness on how the development came to be. You really need to visit: or the village website. If you choose to visit the village website, you will find -- NOTHING ON THE SUBJECT OF THE MADISON DEVELOPMENT. Why?

Dan from OP  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 2:18 PM

Epic, why call people haters just because they don't want a huge public subsidized housing unit in there back yard. I live on North end of Oak Park and we don't have these facilities here and we don't want them. Doesn't mean I am hater, instead I am concerned about our community. OP has way too much subsidized housing already. Let other communities pick up the slack. OP cannot alone solve the regions housing problems. Why not get Berwyn to build this.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 2:15 PM

Epic, props for the rhetoric, but you're just plain misinformed. The project in required by HUD regulations to stay for 40 years in order to pay off the 15-20 million dollars ($300,000-400,000 per 1 bed unit) of development costs. At that point (2053-ish) it can be something else. Check out the website URL below, the information there, links to the Plan Commission site where the Interfaith application is, etc. Then, once you have more than baseless accusations let's chat.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 1:55 PM

So are you now asserting that the lack of demand will only manifest itself 40 yrs down the road? Or are you so filled with hate over the possibility that people of moderate means may live near you that you'll argue out of both sides of your mouth? Let's make the point a little bit finer, shall we? The haters are LYING when they say that they are concerned that there is no demand for the units.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 1:44 PM

Yes Epic. In 40 years that will happen. So...low risk, no worries.

epic lulz  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 1:32 PM

If there is truly no demand for the housing Interfaith proposes to build, then the development will fail and revert back to a big empty building, which is apparently preferable to all the haters. Of course, what the haters are really concerned about is that there will actually be a demand for the housing.

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 12:57 PM

Mr. Haley, thanks for the feel good article. I think it does a great job of illustrating the fact that Oak Park does not need the housing proposed by Interfaith. There is a wealth of supportive housing already present in Oak Park today addressing the needs of the audiences who most need it. To illustrate that point further, I recommend you visit the website referernced by Mr. Murtagh below. Specifically, check out the "History of the Project" page, 7-8-09, source-OP Five-Year Consolidated Plan.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: April 20th, 2011 12:28 PM

Dan Haley "Next we'll likely have the 51 units of affordable housing for working people over on Madison Street. There's some tension over it. That's kind of how this works. It's a process. One that makes us stronger." Want to get an idea what Dan sees as "tension?" VISIT:

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