Oak Park residents sound off on low-income apartments

Plan Commission hopes to decide on proposal in March


Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Show/Hide Gallery

By Marty Stempniak

Staff Reporter

After weeks of hearings, neighbors of a controversial Madison Street development proposal finally got a chance to speak their minds before the Oak Park Plan Commission last week.

In a packed council chambers at Oak Park Village Hall, with more than 90 people attending, residents made their case for why the four-story, 51-unit complex for low-income singles should move forward — or get shot down. Some argued that the building fits perfectly with Oak Park's history of fair housing and inclusiveness. On the other side, opponents argued that the building is a solution looking for a problem, one that would likely wreck the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

"What if, as is the case with housing projects, the neighborhood loses its stability and deteriorates?" said Amy Pappageorge, who lives on the 400 block of South Grove, just north of the proposed project. "What will become of this harmonious and beloved neighborhood? Will families feel compelled to move out? How many of us lose sleep at night as we consider these possible scenarios that could uproot everything we hold dear — our home, our cherished neighbors, our roots in Oak Park?"

Opponents repeatedly criticized the project for being limited to people who earn less than $26,300, rather than a mix of wage earners. Such an approach would segregate and isolate such people, said critics. Demetrios Pappageorge argued that there would be no reason for tenants to better themselves — because they would no longer qualify to live there if they boosted their income or married someone.

"What motivation will there be for betterment?" he asked.

Chris Koertge argued that there are too many uncertainties with the project — from the exact nature of the tenants, to whether the developer can line up a commercial tenant for the ground-floor retail space.

"There are too many holes," he said. "The zoning variances requested of the board must not be approved, based on trust and good intentions alone. I urge you to reject the variances that the applicant has submitted. Without considerably more substance and certainty, the project as planned not only does not belong in my backyard, it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard."

Chicago-based Interfaith Housing Corp. is hoping to buy the long-vacant property at 820 W. Madison, which was formerly a facility for Comcast. They plan to gut it, strip off and restore 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.

But to do so, they need eight variances from the local zoning ordinance. The proposed building is too tall, too dense and doesn't provide enough parking, so Interfaith needs a go-ahead from the plan commission.

Residents in support of the project urged commissioners to grant the allowances and enable the project to reach the next step.

Anne Frueh, of the 600 block of Wenonah, said her 22-year-old son and many of her nieces and nephews would qualify to live in the building.

"People who live in these places are not strangers," she said. "They're our neighbors; they're people who serve us food; they're maybe our own children; and this development would provide fundamental supports that every community should provide to its members."

Doug Schenkelberg, of the 1100 block of Ridgeland, believes people can argue over the technical aspects of the project, but everyone eventually needs to unite to support it. Schenkelberg related what he told his 8-year-old son when asked why his family is in favor of the development.

"We support this because when we do, we're being the best version of ourselves," he said. "We support it because we moved to Oak Park to be in an inclusive and diverse community that opened itself to people from all walks of life so that they all had opportunities. We support projects like this because we may need it someday ourselves."

David Kralik, of the 500 block of Highland, said he's in favor because the developers plan to restore an old building; it's being done carefully; and it will fill what he believes is a pressing need in the community.

"When our disabled relative or neighbor can no longer afford to live in Oak Park, we collectively lose a great deal," he said.

The plan commission is scheduled to pick up again on Feb. 3, when members will hear more testimony from citizens opposed to the project. The commission hopes to make a recommendation to the village board in March.

Reader Comments

125 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 9th, 2011 12:37 AM

OP Resident -- DCFS does NOT just hand out money to random low-income families. In order for DCFS to provide assistance to ANY adults, they would have to have been wards of the state. Further, assistance for wards is not life long. I believe they only receive aid up through their college years (the cut off, if I'm not mistaken is 23 or 25). I haven't read anything that says the tenants will be young state wards.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 10:02 PM

@OP Resident: You're citing a 7 year old article that actually proves one of the points that the opposition raises - that the proven need is for housing for large families, not for singles. All current comment from IHDC on this project states that there will be few if any children in this project. Have you read the application or attended any of the testimony? Your comments seem to show that you're not paying attention to anything the developer is stating on the record.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 9:32 PM

These babies are desperate ... not lepars. Have a heart. http://www.ihdc.org/Homeless_Headlines_10_04.pdf

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 9:14 PM

@OP Resident: Nothing you are saying is based in fact.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 7:56 PM

Do not act so COLD! The homes are zoned for one adult and one child. The funds are coming from DCFS and HUD. These babies need a place to live. Show some respect please.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 7:54 PM

(ignoring OP Resident until he/she responds to my prior request for a source for his/her "facts")

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 7:39 PM

Single mothers and their babies are NOT the resident profile. They won't live here as the project is designed except as an exception. The applicants stated, this is not a location for families. Please do your homework before accusing others of having "no shame".

OP Resident  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 6:54 PM

DCFS and HUD have funds sorely needed for single mothers and their babies. What kind of future do these babies have in the ghetto? So far all of IHDC's transition homes have been in areas with poor schools and services. Please help these babies. Have you no shame? We elected Obama. We want this salvation. These babies are our future.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: February 8th, 2011 3:58 PM

Senior vs. Single Housing--Oak Park Township, responsible for OP senior housing did an extensive study last year on where to build additional housing in OP. There was no question in the report that additional senior housing was needed. OP Township then began looking for a site but discontinued the effort last fall because of the high operating support the township would have to carry. The senior shortage exists but that they needed to do find a more creative,less expensive proposal.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 10:37 AM

@OP Resident: The building won't sit empty, that's for sure. I question whether it serves the constituents that the developer purports to serve - working poor in OP. They want variances to build; I'd appreciate honest answers in return. The Village's study on affordable housing, as previously cited, does show areas of need but not a need for affordable singles housing in Oak Park. This isn't my opinion - it's an expert opinion commissioned by the Village. Where are you getting your facts?

OP Resident  

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 9:53 AM

@Chris, Your right.There is no demand and this group is just wasting peoples time and energy for a empty building. Get real. Compare apples to apples...Not apples to oranges

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 3rd, 2011 9:13 AM

@OP Resident: Last time I checked (2 months ago) the singles demand in Oak Park has been met, as evidenced by widespread availability of 1BR / Studio apartments for around $700 a month. Many of them are larger than the 400-450 sq ft proposed in the Comcast building. Pick up an Apartment Guide next time you go to the grocery store and look for yourself or take a look at rent.com.


Posted: February 2nd, 2011 10:01 PM

@OP Resident - Madison and Elgin in Forest Park, a few blocks from the Comcast building; Bon Villa Apartments on Wisconsin in Oak Park; the single rooms available to rent at the Oak Park YMCA

OP Resident  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 8:58 PM

@John M, There already is housing for elderly: OP Arms, Heritage House, and Mills Tower. Name me one for singles? Maybe there needs to be more for the elderly, but the singles demand HAS NOT been met. Thank You

OP Mom  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 7:48 PM

If you look at the study done by the Neighbors for Madison Renewal you'll see that the most significant concerns are more about things like parking. What I've found is supporters claim that those concerned are against this because they are not charitable or prejudiced and we all get dragged down a rat hole. FACT-the largest concerns are about density. See the link to the full study at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Concerned-Citizens-Madison-Avenue-Housing-Project-Oak-Park/183305981700320?v=app_

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 7:48 PM

"We're OP"? "We can get through this"? Huh? Five neighbors getting together to shovel the alley is a situation that calls for a cheerleader. Not this lol. Where there's a will there's a way, but the will has to come first. In order for people to be okay with making sacrifices, there has to be some benefit. We can't clearly see any benefit to this project yet. Hooraying and yaying the project isn't quite a benefit lol.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 6:08 PM

RE Madison Housing Proposal -- There is a handbook produced by Hud titled Senior Housing in the 21st Century -- a Looming Crisis. There is no such handbook for singles housing. The Baby Boom retirement began in this year. 96 million seniors will be seeking care facilities soon. AND OP IS THINKING OF BUILDING SINGLE HOUSING. What will the world call it -- The Tiny Crisis in Housing?

OP Resident  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 3:54 PM

Chris, There will be no problem getting the place filled. Maybe we need more than one that will accommodate the needs of the others as well. Cheap housing in OP? Are you kidding me. Who's not gonna want to live here?

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 1:03 PM

@OP Resident: How is level of demand for this type of housing not a valid concern? The Village's affordable housing report, as updated 8/10, cites need for housing for families, the elderly and people with disabilities. There's a need for transitional housing for singles, but IHDC insists that this development is long term, not temporary, housing. We're paying for the corporate tax breaks that fund this in our taxes. Why support a development that isn't needed per the Village's own study?

OP Resident  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 10:48 AM

There were more than 50 people that worked in the Comcast building. I am not sure how they calculate how many spots they need for each project. I do know that there are MANY buildings in OP with NO PARKING at ALL. I am glad we are discussing parking. This is at least an objection that I get!! I hope it isn't a decoy. We can get through this. We are OP!!

OP Mom  

Posted: February 2nd, 2011 10:02 AM

There are not enough spots for the residents. 13 spots for 50 units. So they will already be overflowing to the street. Visitor parking will make it worse. That is how it is different from when the building was operating as a Comcast business.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 11:44 PM

Have you forgotten how many people worked at Comcast? Since when does development projects take on the visitor parking???

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 8:58 PM

Who mentioned race? "OP Resident". Believe it or not, plenty of people with lower incomes do own cars. Not only their personal cars, but the cars of visitors. Proximity to the train is irrelevant. Not every single individual has to own a car for parking to be an issue that needs to be considered.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 8:42 PM

Parking? Low Income residents. I believe not everyone will have a car. It is central to 3 trains and numerous buses. This could be a perfect place for such a project. Race, Income, Sexual Orientation have no part in this discussion.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 5:40 PM

My point is simply that people have very valid reasons to be concerned, because of past examples. You can't negate these legitimate concerns by suggesting those who oppose must be bigots or uncaring. Nothing that I've seen, so far, is guaranteed to set this project apart. As for past projects by those proposing this, I can't say. When you consider parking, the size and number of the apartments, and other large low-income complexes, this screams bad idea for good reason.

OP Resident  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 10:32 AM

The group purposing this project DOES have success stories of where its been done in the city. I recall watching a board meeting within the last yr where trustees have actually gone and visited the sites and were impressed with them. Its not a secret as to where they have developed in the past.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: February 1st, 2011 9:25 AM

@Cogs: If the developer were operating within Oak Park's established zoning codes there wouldn't even be a debate. Similar variances were opposed on similar grounds by neighbors several years ago on a lot across the street and sometimes contradictory information from Interfaith has only increased that opposition. Per the village's own study the need is for families, elderly and the disabled. Is it wrong to question a development that addresses none of these proven demands?


Posted: February 1st, 2011 1:23 AM

COGS- Please save and repost your comment the next time the annual achievement gap debate comes up and ask why the only cause ever discussed is race, rather than parental involvement, socio-economic environment, child attitude/desire, or a dozen other possibilities that always seem to take a back seat to race as the primary reason/cause of the existing gap.


Posted: January 31st, 2011 11:00 PM

Why, in 2011, is "Race" an acceptable component of this discussion. Shameful. Get beyond it. Or over it. Or whatever. The working poor should be welcomed into a community so rich in history and beauty. Oak Park's story is a triumph of courage over bigotry. T But respect comes first. I don't know if the concerns about this proposal are legit but Oak Park codes will going to be enforced. Let the debate continue without fearing tenants

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 10:57 PM

OP Resident - How can you say it wouldn't have some of the same elements as Cabrini? "This is OP" is not a valid argument. You don't know that. What separates this project from all the others? Faith and confidence aren't plans and facts. That's no different from having a baseless fear. Our concern for what could happen, however, is based on past examples, which are very real. Sadly, we have no known GOOD examples of large low-income housing complexes.

OP Mom  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 10:17 PM

Can you get more specific about what you think is conjecture?

OP Resident  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 10:06 PM

Asking questions is one thing. Making up things that DONT EXIST is not! As long as people oppose it on merit and not some imaginary thing. This is not Cabrini Green people. Oak Park knows housing pretty well and I hae all the confidences in this great village!

OP Mom  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 9:56 PM

OP resident, If we don't question this project now we will lose our chance. If it doesn't work out we don't get to say, "Oops! We don't want this development after all". Once it's approved it,s at least 40 years. At that point, I, a younger mother of 2 will be nearly 80. It will be a long time. People are right to ask questions.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 8:06 PM

J.G. Morales has a valid argument of the project being Too BIG. I can handle that. I cant understand all this discussion about race, class, and awful descriptions of the people who may live there and how bad they are( or going to be)How can anyone take a position against something that doesn't exist yet??? Not only is this OP, but this is the USA. The melting pot of the WORLD!

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 31st, 2011 4:24 PM

Discussing race is not a bad thing. In Oak Park, discussing race is crucial to our living side by side comfortably. We need to discuss race more in OP, not less, Of course, discussing race does not include name calling, race baiting, playing the race card, calling people Nimbies, etc.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 30th, 2011 7:29 PM

OP Resident: It isn't I who has the cart in front of the horse. That's the developer with a vague plan who has gone before the Village requesting 8 variances. I'm simply a concerned neighbor who has unaddressed questions about the pretty picture IHDC paints. The development is said to be for Oak Park residents, yet they can't deliver on promise w/o future cooperation from their investors. They've contradicted their own testimony. Not exactly how one earns the trust of concerned neighbors.

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 30th, 2011 10:49 AM

OP Resident. Your evasive answer underscores why I am concerned about this project. So far, the facts have been actively obscured by limited disclosure, half truths and intimidation. While spirited and often heated debate is a hallmark of public life in Oak Park, there is an uncomfortable pattern of dissembling coming from some of the supporters that seems directed toward sowing confusion. That is not the Oak Park way. The Commission should do it's duty and shelf this mystery.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 9:03 PM

Most people don't seem to have a HUGE problem with low income families finding assistance in Oak Park. Plenty are already here... taking things out of my son's bookbag, and pushing him around a little during recess. The problem is with the SIZE of THIS project. Many have stated it would be better to use a number of apt buildings than to put so many people in this building. Moralizing the issue does not shrink the size of the building. Try as you might, it won't work.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 8:42 PM

OP Resident - My son continues to take things to school (even though he has had things stolen many times before), because he wants to believe that it won't happen again. What you're arguing for is the same type of attitude. Ignore the bad and hope for the best. As a mother, I don't believe this is the most logical attitude for an adult to have in certain situations. What separates this proposed project from what happened to CHA/HUD buildings? As far as I know... nothing.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 7:57 PM

[Chris Koertge urged the plan commission to reject the variances, noting too many uncertainties about the financing, the potential tenants in the commercial space and whether preferences would be given to people who lived or worked in Oak Park. "The risk is too great to me, my children and our community ... It doesn't belong in anyone's back yard," he said.] Sorry Chris. How can you be scared of something that doesnt exist. This process is for just that. Dont put the cart in front of the horse.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 2:28 PM

@OP Resident: Either pick a unique handle or (GASP) post under your real name. If you stand by your words and opinions you should be more than willing to use your real name.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 12:55 PM

@Dutch Elm, There are 50,000 OP residents in OP.

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 8:46 AM

OP Resident 2 OP RESIDENT - you say that you did not bring race into the discussion. C'mon. HERE IS YOUR POST FROM 1/25" "Posted: Tuesday, January 25th, 2011 12:25 PM Why would poor single mothers have pychos and drug addicts as visitors? Just because they are black and poor does not make them bad people. We need to show compassion. What would you do with no job and a baby?" ARE WE TO INFER SOME OTHER MEANING FROM THIS POST?

OP Mom  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 1:58 AM

@ OP Resident: On your post about this being for single moms and having a daycare...rosy picture, but again, not the resident profile targeted for this building. The applicants very clearly stated during the last plan commission meeting that they are not designing a building for families because it is not a place for families.

OP Mom  

Posted: January 29th, 2011 1:55 AM

@OP Resident: I don't see how you can object to A.Parent's characterization of those she lived with. She lived it, not you nor I. She's giving her personal experience. Should she sugar coat her experience to be politically correct or generous to the community's detriment? Like I said earlier, some really need to take the rose colored glasses off. It's important to see clearly prior to making a decades long commitment.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 28th, 2011 6:36 PM

To both Dutch elm and A.Parent: I never brought race into it. A.Parent on the other hand used the terms: psychos, ex cons, gang bangers and sex offenders. These groups of people are not looked upon in a good light. Why would you bring them up as possible tenants? Maybe they existed where you once lived, but they have NO Place in this discussion. Stick to the topic. Lets assume that all the tenants are law abiding citizens. Is the project acceptable on the grounds of housing people?

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 28th, 2011 8:20 AM

Proponents exort opponents to compassion but then employ race as a cudgeal. Don't be intimidated. Most OPers have earned their "diversity" bona fides. I certainly hope that members of the Commission take time to read this string and see that the opponents have the facts.

A. Parent  

Posted: January 27th, 2011 6:19 PM

@J.G., You've got that so right. The "poor and black" comment followed my post about my experience as a tenant in a huge, suburban HUD complex. The comment puzzled me, because nowhere did I mention race in my comment ATT: OP Resident 2 FYI my neighbors in the HUD complex were majorly Caucasians, with a small number of Latins, Africans, Asians residents)


Posted: January 27th, 2011 4:24 PM

"Just because they are black and poor does not make them bad people." Who mentioned race? What's with the racist liberalism? In all of these posts, the only people who have mentioned race regarding this project have been those who support it. The only ones assuming race is implied by those who oppose this project are the ones in favor of it. Speaking as a "minority", I find this rather sickening. This type of "support" isn't doing anyone any favors, nor is it helping your argument.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2011 3:11 PM

The irony of the crisis in senior housing is that the increased housing needs for the BabyBoomer generation will end in about 30 years. The 70's and 80's were the BabyBust generation when births plummeted. As a result, after 30 years we will have excess senior housing. That means they will have to be used for other purposes. That is; we will need to build Adaptive/Convertible Housing now. The Comcast Building if converted to single housing would be one of the least convertible buildings.


Posted: January 27th, 2011 8:32 AM

I don't support residential use at this location whatsoever; it's highest and best use is commerical. It wouldn't matter to me if the minimum annual salary was $300,000 to seniors without cars, it's just bad planning. I don't live nearby but call me a NIMBY because the entire Village of Oak Park is my backyard.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 27th, 2011 7:53 AM

@John - there would be likely be strong local support for a development that serves a specific, documented need such as senior housing. Rehab on this building is estimated at $10 million dollars. Why spend that kind of money unless the need is proven and strong? Should it be built just because companies like Exxon, once named as a frequent investor, wants to buy a tax shelter? If Exxon isn't paying that tax, guess who is? You are. Do we love the Fortune 100 THAT much?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 3:14 PM

Facts At least 60% of the funding for the Comcast Housing will come from HUD HUD has rules - they do cutesy like the ones being described by Oak Park Housing Authority and Interfaith The highest housing priority in the country, state, county, and village is senior housing, not singles housing. Why? The first Baby Boomer reached 65 years of age this month. 96 million will follow. OP does not have enough housing now much less in ten years. We need a big shift in thinking.

S. Plissken  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 2:12 PM

Great news I just got my first prescription filled at the new Walgreens across from the comcast building. Service was just like CVS, down the street. What was really sweet was as I left the building I was asked for change(money) by a homeless woman. I sure look forward to the day that there is a dollar store and an SRO across the street from the new Walgreens that I will likely never return to if these projects are approved. I may have to change my banking location also...sorry Chase.

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 11:43 AM

Sorry, Oak Park has suceeded as a diverse MIDDLE CLASS community. If you can pay the freight, you're in. Those Middle Class VALUES have helped keep the community stable. The truth now apparent, after much apparent obfuscation is that the tenants will be deeply disfunctional indivuduals, largly dependant on the state. To the intellectual hacks who keep changing the discussion to deflect the reality of the facts, I say: SHAME ON YOU!

Mia Lu  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 8:34 AM

Please correct me if I'm wrong -- my understanding is the units are 450 square feet. This is about the size of a decent hotel room. Why are supporters so excited about shoving people into a 450 square foot apartment that costs $700? My understanding is the voucher program provides greater opportunity for families and individuals.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 8:24 AM

If DCFS has agreed to subsidize the rents of young adults, presumably ex-wards, then some entity must have asked them to do so. Is Interfaith recruiting at DCFS and other agencies for this project. That suggests Oak Park is not really on their minds except as a cheap site. More importantly, DCFS is the state agency for children. While there are programs to sustain ex-wards as they transition to adulthood, the state presumably can't support ex-wards indefinitely. What happens then?

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 26th, 2011 7:42 AM

@OP Resident: Interfaith has also insisted that this isn't a HUD development and that they aren't bounded by HUD definitions of supportive housing. They will have their own private waiting list estimated at 200-400 names. They can't legally prioritize any of the groups you've mentioned w/o approval of their funders. They can't even commit to prioritizing OP residents at this time. Are you suggesting that Interfaith has been dishonest or inaccurate in their public testimony?

Nancy from Oak Park  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 10:58 PM

When we were poor and couldn't afford to live in Oak Park we lived in Chicago and had roommates and took advantage of the lakefront, transit, culture and real diversity. Oak Park can't offer such a quality of life.


Posted: January 25th, 2011 10:08 PM

Project - BAD IDEA!!!

OP Resident  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 9:52 PM

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has agreed to subsidize the rents of the young adults, who will pay 30 percent of any income they earn. The balance will come from DCFS. This will be the first time that the state is offering such a rent subsidy for the youth leaving the DCFS system. DCFS receives the funding from HUD. Be proud to help these homeless families. Oak Park has a gay and lesbian trustee to proudly support this project. I completely concur.

OP Resident be proud Chris from Interfaiith Website  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 9:45 PM

We have been in the closet toooo long. Quote as follows: Homeless shelter providers have always had difficulty finding permanent housing for their clients. IHDCC was established to assist shelter providers in creating housing targeting this group. One reason for the success is its practice of partnering with a neighborhood on all of its projects. They tackle issues like youth aging out of foster care, grandparents/single parents raising children, or individuals in substance abuse recovery.

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 8:12 PM

OP Resident: The developers have publicly stated on multiple occasions that they do not anticipate more than a couple of children in this building. This isn't my opinion - it direct testimony from IHDC. Also, IHDC requires ability to pay rent (i.e. not housing the unemployed) and insists that they are NOT developing a HUD funded project. I appreciate your good intentions, but I believe your vision of this project is pretty far removed from what's being presented to the Village.

OP Resident  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 7:12 PM

Single mothers are going to be the residents. Interfaith is asking for zoning to make this possible. Chris please stand by your convictions. Be proud to help these babies out. There is nothing wrong with trying to save children from the westside slums and put them in good Oak Park schools. I also think there should be HUD (good rent) sponsored day care on the first floor. The mothers could look for education/employment. Lets make this a Win-Win for everyone!

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 5:09 PM

@ OP Resident 2: I really wish we could wipe away the inaccurate belief that this project will benefit single mothers. Interfaith has stated on record that they don't anticipate many, if any, children in this development. Additionally Gladys Jordan, President of Interfaith, has repeatedly stated that this lot is inappropriate for families due to proximity of busy streets. My fear is that those in favor of this project haven't taken the time to understand the facts before offering support.

S. Plissken  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 2:46 PM

Interfaith's webpage states Interfaith Housing Development Corporation of Chicago has been designated a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) by the City of Chicago's Department of Housing. Among special needs housing developers, it is one of the few that creates projects with apartments spacious enough for families, and which provide services-such as child care or counseling-designed for their special needs. Comcast will not be spacious or provide any services for residents. I sure hope this does not happen. I have no faith in Interfaith.


Posted: January 25th, 2011 2:42 PM

@OP Resident ...Re; "What would you do with no job and a baby?" ...I would rent one of the other hundreds of apts available at $600, and not subject myself to a project conceived in the ghettoization of a certain socio-economic class that excludes diversity. This project is being proposed so that SOMEONE has financial gain. Ghettos have been proven to be bad news for tenant and community, usually $$ news for the developer. Wakeupola plz..

j.oak park from oak park  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 12:58 PM

The FAQ on the Oak Park Housing Authority web site states that there will be a Tenant Selection Plan and that neighbors have requested the plan, before zoning approval. Has that plan been formulated and if it has where can I find it?

OP Resident 2  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 12:25 PM

Why would poor single mothers have pychos and drug addicts as visitors? Just because they are black and poor does not make them bad people. We need to show compassion. What would you do with no job and a baby?

OP Resident  

Posted: January 25th, 2011 11:58 AM

@ A. Parent: Quote you said"However, sharing hallways with psychos, ex cons, gang bangers and sex offenders proved to be downright dangerous. There's no way to regulate paramours and visitors." The tenants would not be any of the above. As to who the visitors will be- The laws of this fine land do not allow for any type of segregation of anybody who wishes to visit anyone in OP or any other place that I am aware! The opposition hasnt been open minded one bit when it comes to this project.

OP Mom  

Posted: January 24th, 2011 8:16 PM

There is now a facebook page to spread the word about this project. Please go to and "like" http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Concerned-Citizens-Madison-Avenue-Housing-Project-Oak-Park/183305981700320


Posted: January 24th, 2011 3:17 PM

a quick search on rent.com shows that there are 338 studio and 1 bedroom apartments available in Oak park, now. for moms and dads thinking that you might be able to rent a studio apartment for your kids, cheaply, forget about it. Built with government money means you will have to be on a government list to get a room at the SRO(sorrow) Inn. Just being young and poor and a young adult citizen of oak park will not move you up the list.

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 24th, 2011 3:03 PM

An income threshold of $26K would allow for a prudent budget amount of up to $600 per month for rent. A quick search on Craigslist pulled up nearly 1000 listings of apartments available for $600 per month or less - in Chicago alone. See: http://chicago.craigslist.org/search/apa?query=&srchType=A&minAsk=&maxAsk=600&bedrooms= Quality tenants have no trouble securing an apartment. This is worrisome.

OP Mom  

Posted: January 24th, 2011 12:47 PM

@ A. Parent - if you could tell your story to the planning commission it would be very helpful. Email Craig Failor at failor@oak-park.us and he will share your submission with the Plan Commission. Thanks!

A. Parent  

Posted: January 24th, 2011 11:38 AM

Speaking from experience, in my 30s I worked for inadequate pay in non profit sector which qualified me for HUD housing. Since it was what I could afford, I rented an apt.in a complex for almost two years. The on- site mngr. screened renters and did a good job managing. However, sharing hallways with psychos, ex cons, gang bangers and sex offenders proved to be downright dangerous. There's no way to regulate paramours and visitors. I broke my lease, lost my secuity deposit and moved out.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 24th, 2011 5:47 AM

@ "Crime Down" People - Off topic, but... There was NO mention of assaults in that little WJ article. Great, my lawnmower is safe, but I could be pepper sprayed. Right. I know what was in the blotter 16 years ago, and I know what's there today. How do you know more people aren't simply using bike locks these days? Numbers can be misleading. Try: "44 assaults, up from 35 the prior year" 200% increase for sexual assault & 26% increase for assault/battery. Check: oak-park.us

Demetrios Pappageorge from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 7:25 PM

It is unfortunate that your opinions are based on a well-spun sound bite from my speech. My issue with this project is the plan, not the goal. If you would like to meet for civil discourse, I would be happy to talk. You could use your blog name and wear a ski mask if that makes you feel safer. I just want to talk facts and what's in the best interest of the prospective tenants AND the neighborhood.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 1:28 PM

The Oak Park Housing Authority (OPHA) is an Illinois Municipal Corp. providing affordable housing for elderly and disabled individuals and families. It is also local partner for the Madison Housing Proposal. OPHA ignored HUD's warning - baby boomers reaching 65 this year was a looming senior housing crisis, and decided to go single. They had chosen Comcast in 2007 as a site, and needed a project that fit. The fit was single housing. They thought it would slip it by as the sleepy village slept.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 10:37 AM

A project that can only happen if all sorts of rules get changed and then can only house tenants if someone else (taxpayers) is paying / subsidizing their rent for them sounds like something that was not meant to happen in the first place. This is a really bad idea and it shouldn't happen.


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 9:27 AM

Does anyone know if sex offenders are allowed to live in low income housing?


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 9:04 AM

Time OUT - after all it is GAME day. Lets ask our Village Tr. why they are even evaluating this project. As many others have said, Madison is commercial, the street was designed that WAY - as was this Building. As @OP Bob said, OP should spend some of its TIF money (if it really WANTS Economic Capability Development - produces Sales and Property Tax for the Village) to help secure a Really Good group of tenants to move IN. Now, this is something ALL of OP would agree is a good use of TIF

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 7:19 AM

@OPer: Federal tax credits are NOT private charity. Both on the boards and in the meetings I've observed very few bigoted comments. The neighbors for and against are not far apart in their views. If this development were 100% dedicated to serving the elderly or disabled - proven needs in the community - there would be stronger support. This is one of the most diverse communities in the state, if not the country. There aren't many bigots here.

adele from OP  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 6:21 AM

@OPer - take a deep breath plz and stop channeling rosie o'donnel. Nick Stix from NYC has it just right...moral intimidation is at play - red flags should cause pause. Those who oppose are not (all) bigots etc. It is right to question how a concrete ghetto, where each tenant needs a personal social worker, will impact the community. There are only so many seats on the lifeboat before it starts to sink.

OP Bob from Oak Park  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 6:09 AM

I live in OP. About 5 blocks from the proposed project. Stacking poor people on top of each other has proven to be a disaster throught the US. That is why it's been stopped. Why would we think it would be different in OP? The only way this project should go forward would be for it to be a mixed income residence with maybe 20-25% reserved for low income. If this can't be done, maybe the Village can give out some money to attract a quality business or office tenant. That's what Madison St. needs!


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 5:25 AM

@Chris Koertge -- If true, then I retract my comment in so far as it applied to the person quoted. Unfortunately, the comments here indicate quite clearly that that kind of bigoted attitude is indeed proudly held by many of the other opponents on the project.


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 5:21 AM

"If this project does not win approval, supporters can offer to take on the prospective clients and their minor dependent as rent free boarders. All private charity. " The current plan is all private charity. No one is asking you to pay for anything -- they're just asking you to let them do what they want with their own property.


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 5:15 AM

"Oh the conservative intolerance of reactionary liberals." LMAO. Yes, please we're all waiting for you to justify your "tolerant" position that people who make more money are "better" than those who make less. My guess is that you'll instead slink away. Seriously, anyone who believes that better be prepared for a fight, and if you're not up to it, move to some place like Lake Forest, where you can express your bigotries without question.


Posted: January 23rd, 2011 5:09 AM

Sorry bigots and racists, but crime is DOWN in OP. You'll have to find some other fig leaf to cover up your disgusting prejudices.

Tax Payer  

Posted: January 23rd, 2011 1:27 AM

First of all-NO ONE has moved in. So please relax. One would think from these comments that they are building a MAX security Prison here. NOT THE CASE PEOPLE!!! People with lower than normal income are citizens too. No? People are as safe in OP than any other urban Village. Check the #'s! This project could work. Oak Park stands for something. We welcome all kinds with open arms. Let's have an open mind before we put the kabash on something that doesnt even exist!!!

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 9:11 PM

@Vernon - To imply that anyone of any race needs more motivation simply because of their income sounds like a huge prejudgment, regardless of context. Moreover, $700 a month is easily found just across Austin. Those places don't include restrictions on income or family size. So, why put such a large low-income complex here?

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 9:04 PM

@ OPer - If you don't understand why we pay these high taxes, YOU don't belong in Oak Park lol. (I agree that it is funny how people try to moralize so many issues.) No, there's nothing wrong with making $26k. However, from all I've read, who moves into these buildings won't be under strict control. Thus, you can't make a faith based assumption about who will move in. I agree with what you said about the "motivation" remark, but not all who oppose this are bigots.

J.G. Morales  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 8:35 PM

@ "Tax Payer" - I'm sorry, but there was a time when the "big news" was that someone stole gum from Walgreens and a few missing bikes or lawnmowers. Maybe something might happen at Dominick's every blue moon, but there was never a time when people were being regularly attacked in our community like this. We've had a couple of bad summers that I can recall, but nothing comparable to what's been going on lately. It's not an "idea" it's reality.

Tax Payer  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 7:32 PM

Last time I checked, OP crime is WAAAAAAAAYYYY Down! To the person that says they see crime in the blotter every week. Guess What? It has been there my entire life and will be there for ever. OP, like any other Village, Town or City WILL have crime. Anyone who thinks crime will go away is not living in realty. That being said. The folks that are chosen to live here WILL NOT BE CRIMINALS. Lose the idea!!!

Dutch Elm  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 7:02 PM

If this project does not win approval, supporters can offer to take on the prospective clients and their minor dependent as rent free boarders. All private charity. Just a bedroom or two, and use of the bathroom and kitchen for a year or two till they can save up enough for a to "get back on their feet". You might even get a glowing little goo goo feature in the Wed. Journal. Can't entice you? Or is it a little too risky? (Oh Virtue, why do you fly when my purse is opened?)

Nicholas Stix from New York City  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 5:14 PM

The best-version-of-ourselfers who rabidly support this project are using deceit and moral intimidation: The project, er, structure, 'would house our kids and people just like them from Oak Park, and only a vicious racist would care, anyway.' The building would not be home to folks like you. As one commenter noted, HUD doesn't do that. Each occupant would not only be poor, but so dependent and dysfunctional as to require his own personal social worker. Including HUD's involvement, that's three red flags right there. You are guaranteed to get exclusively the worst of the worst.

Bravo OP mom  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 11:51 AM

Bravo OP Mom, well put.

Oper = Hypocrisy   

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 11:46 AM

Oh the conservative intolerance of reactionary liberals. Grow up. I love it when people say things that essentially say "If you aren't in line with my beliefs on tolerance you are horrible and should leave town" Do you write these things with a straight face or are they intended to be ironic?

Christine Vernon from Oak Park, IL  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 10:57 AM

This is a great concept. So many people are unemployed or under-employed. The problem for people looking for a peaceful place is,if you don't get into a building where people have the same values, habits, & sensibilities you have, you can descend into some level of Dante's Inferno. It doesn't matter what color, race or ethnicity the people are, respect for one another is essential. How have other Oak Park experiments of shared housing worked like Heritage House and Mills Tower, successful?

Chris Koertge  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 10:22 AM

@OPer: I understand how you might draw that conclusion from the way the quote was used, but it was taken out of context. The balance of the Pappageorge's statements included an overview of years of involvement with the working poor. They've dedicated significant time and effort to positive, socially conscious work. They are among the kindest, most civic minded people I've met in Oak Park. You may choose to disagree with their position, but OP needs more people like them, not less.

Concerned OP Mom Cont. from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 10:18 AM

When will it be enough? Is it our job to fix all the problems of the Chicago area or do the best we can while balancing the needs of the comm. res. who pay taxes to make it poss? I get the goal & benefits of a diverse comm. (economic, racial, sexual orientation, age, etc) Its awesome & I'm thrilled for my minority child to grow up in this environment but personal safety also has to be considered. Until our comm. is safer, it makes no sense to add high-density low-inc housing, a proven failure.

Concerned OP Mom from Oak Park  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 9:58 AM

This may be the last straw for my fam. We moved here to live in diverse comm. where we could easily take pub. transp. to Chicago & walk to amenities. But its not safe to walk to pub. transp. or anywhere else. Read crime blotter--there are multiple armed robberies in OP nearly every week. Many occur in early evening in Central OP near green line so I can't use that anymore. Moms have been attacked while putting a child in car & pushing stroller. Let's work on existing problems & not invite more.


Posted: January 22nd, 2011 9:45 AM

This building was built as commercial space, and should stay a commercial space. Zoning should not be increased, but decreased to allow only that, so there is a chance for a successful tenant. There is not enough room for both to work and be successful. Thats what OP needs, not this fairytale BS they are shoveling.

Couldn't agree more!!!  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 8:52 AM

"If you don't live nearby, your opinion doesn't count in my book." Amen!

Double negative typos!  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 8:48 AM

Doesn't not. Oops. That aside, the message is true.

OP doesn't not need it's own Robert Taylor Homes!  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 8:47 AM

Just what we need, an unregulated housing project that only serves to enrich developers. I guarantee you that these people who are in favor live far, far away and won't have their property values reduced, their streets clogged with cars that do not have spaces allotted in the construction, nor kids in the schools which will be flooded with additional non-tax paying kids. Good job guys! Yay!


Posted: January 22nd, 2011 7:58 AM

@ TaxPayer Oak Park Arms is a Senior Center - which most ALL communities have and embrace. This on the other hand does what?? OP needs to increase Economic Capability of the Vilge. Increase reasons for people to WANT to move their families to OP, not to put Additional Pressure on the Tax Base & the Schools. OP Trustees MUST Wake up. They vote to spend 5 MILL TAXs on a Street - and than shove this in our FACE - an area that needs SALES Tax Development and Vibrancy!


Posted: January 22nd, 2011 7:35 AM

This is a terrible idea! Anybody who is in "Favor" of this project needs to get there heads checked.

Tax Payer  

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 12:41 AM

Most of the comments here assume that the project will house crime ridden animals. Why make such assumptions. If anyone in OP brakes the law, they are held to the same standard as everyone else. Period. The OP arms is blocks away. Does that make the property values go down? Do any of the other buildings in OP with subsidized housing in them make the property values go down? I think NOT! The picture needs to be painted with colors of OP. Oak Parker's seem to get along with all kinds.

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 10:16 PM

I read the fourth paragraph of Marty's article "Opponents repeatedly riffed on the project for containing...." and said aloud "They repeatedly did what?" My immediate thought was that a violation of WJ version of the Village new Civility Code had occured. I went to the online dictionary (not the hard copy w big letter) and looked up riffed. The best I could find is that riffed is a quick, witty remark. So, Marty was saying the opponents were cool. I agree!

C. L  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 10:08 PM

This is still a bad idea for OP. We all tire from the same statement - OP is not the City of Chicago. 25% subsidy is not 100%. Lets not be swayed by HUD! Any Trustee that supports this should be subject to voters ouster from their seat in the next election - plain and simple.

OP Mom  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 9:35 PM

@OPer. One of the requirements of living in this building is having a caseworker. There is nothing wrong with making less than 26,000. But if the applicants didn't think that the people who would live here would need more support than the average Joe, why would they require a caseworker? Are there caseworkers in Senior Housing?

john murtagh from oak park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 8:26 PM

The guy who said it is saddened by the way the press handled the quote. The statement was part of a litany of comments on institutional living -- all with concern for the possible residents. As I recall that it was a response a statement about by the sponsors that the turnover rate would be less than 5% a year to emphasis that it is permanent housing. The response addressed an indirect factor in a low turnover, that work success could lead to person having to leave a stable home.


Posted: January 21st, 2011 7:55 PM

While I agree that a mixture of income level would be preferable, sentiment like this:
"What motivation will there be for betterment?"
is despicable bigotry, and really does not belong in the debate. There is nothing wrong with making $26k, and the idea that you're "less" if you don't make more $ is disgusting. If you truly believe that, you don't belong in OP.

Tom Scharre  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 7:10 PM

Got to admit the artist's conception sure beats what's there. In renderings, life is sunny and clear; in reality, we get Whiteco: charmless, feckless & largely tenant-less. How come "being the best version of ourselves" always requires public subsidies, tax forgiveness & zoning variances? Just wondering.

Maggie from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 6:34 PM

Not certain but this past year was the first year OPRF High School was not rated in the top ten in the State. For years it was number ONE. Now we want to have another place for folks to live like the YMCA. What are we trying to do? Have all the families with children leave town. Why not convert the former Comcast building into a high class condo. What an asset to the neighborhood and the great new Walgreen's. From a 48 year resident and not anywhere near Grove and Madison.

Mary Ellen Eads from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 6:33 PM

I think we need to look at the worst possible outcomes for this project not just the best. The best is that a renovated building provides housing for young Oak Parkers who are in need of low-cost housing while they start their careers. When they become more affluent, they move on. The worst is that this becomes a low-income housing project, with a high concentration of low income adults who live permanently outside the workforce. HUD nixes priority to OP residents. Can we live with #2.

Judy Gordon from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 6:28 PM

I agree with you Anne Bowen :). I live in Oak Park and I would like to have my daughter and her 3 year old son be able to stay in Oak Park, too. She is employed at a daycare facility in Oak Pak, has taught swimming lessons at the Oak Park Park District and is attending Triton part time. I don't think she is the type of person an Oak Parker would have to fear and avoid!

Amy Pappageorge  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 6:21 PM

Given the reality of prejudice, Oak Park places the highest premium on assured diversity. To that end, the Oak Park Housing Authority has been very deliberate and controlling about limiting buildings to no more than 25% subsidized housing. Isn't a designated 100% low-income building contrary to the values and housing policies of inclusionary Oak Park ?

Joel Sheffel from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 5:28 PM

In a meeting held 1-19-11 before the Universal Access Commission it was pointed out that there would not be reduced rent as at The Oaks, Mills Towers. Extreme pre-rental screenings will be used. On single rental apartments will be available and only 1/10th of apartments will be accessible apartments. This will be better thjan letting the building remain vacant.

A. Parent  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 5:15 PM

Note: the pro building dreamers quoted do not live adjacent to Madison and Grove. Highland and Ridgeland are a distance away; Wenonah is 4 or 5 blocks away from Grove. If you don't live nearby, your opinion doesn't count in my book. I for one, do not want to have to walk by the residence on my way to Walgreens, just as I avoid walking near the YMCA with its SRO residents. Basic, common safety practice, that's all.

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 5:15 PM

The public session of the Plan Commission followed the completion of the examination phase of the hearing. That part of the meeting should have been covered and it wasn't. During the examination, Ed Solan made it very clear that the selection of Oak Park residents was subject negotiations with HUD. HUD is the provider of more than 60% of the money for the project and their rules are tough. I think the Oak Park Housing Authority's raising the local selection issue to a dream status is reckless

OP Mom  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:40 PM

I think many well intentioned speakers last night are looking at this through rose colored glasses. Multiple times speakers said that their kids could live there. In some cases I'm sure that's true due to disabilities. However, it's important to note, unless a person fits the profile they won't live there. I'm sure the applicants are not looking to build housing for fully-able 20 somethings with entry level jobs who could easily move out by getting a roommate.

Anne Bowen from Oak Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:32 PM

I agree with Anne Frueh that peoople who are making less than $26,000 are not strangers. There are a lot of us in Oak Park and some of us have been living here for years. I moved here in 1965 and bought my condo in 1986 but my current income now that I'm retired is less than $25,000.

Barbara from Forest Park  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:05 PM

Very same arguments were used again assisted living facilities.

OP East-sider  

Posted: January 21st, 2011 4:00 PM

Those who are opposed to this - don't hide behind the argument that the income requirement will make the tenants have "no motivation to better themselves." Just say you don't want low-income strangers in your neighborhood and see the value of your housing go down - like the folks who fought open housing in OakPark 40 years ago.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2019

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2019 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad

Latest Comments