BRONZEVILLE — Phase I of the Paul G. Stewart Center, a 24-unit senior development, was unveiled at a Wednesday grand opening with 286 more units on the way.
Amenities at the three-story buildings include a playground, exercise room, grocery store, parking lot and community room. The remaining units are due by 2015, according to Ken Marshall, a spokesman for Prairie Mortgage Co., a lender for the development.
The new units are located adjacent to a high-rise building predominately occupied by seniors like Lillian Courtney, 73, an 11-year resident.
"I like the atmosphere this place provides. I feel safe and everything is convenient," Courtney said. "I especially like this grocery store. Now I don't have to get a ride to the store just to buy toilet tissue."
The $9.5 million development's units, which are two and three bedrooms, are available only to low-income tenants, said Fred Bonner, CEO of Chicago-based Peoples Consumer Co-Operative, which helped develop the subsidized units at 450 E. 40th St.
"All units are affordable. A tenant would pay 30 percent of their household income toward rent," Bonner said. "Our goal is to create housing for people who need it the most."
Public housing residents and residents using Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly referred to as Section 8) to rent apartments and homes, pay 30 percent of their household income toward rent while the rest is paid for by the government.
More low and moderate-income housing is needed in Bronzeville, according to state Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-3rd).
"I have lived in the community for over 50 years, and this is the type of housing our residents need," said Hunter, a former alcohol and drug counselor.
Anna Gohston is a 17-year resident and said she enjoys activities offered to residents.
"My favorite game is Scrabble. And I have so many friends [here] I can hardly remember all of their names," said the 84-year-old widow. "All of us [tenants] get together during the week to talk about politics and other things going on in the world. We're a family and I'm glad to see more apartments are being built for other folks to live."
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd), whose ward includes the development, praised Bonner for a job well done.
"This day [Wednesday] is a long time coming. Affordable housing can stabilize a community," Dowell said to a crowd of 100 people. "I am glad that we [Bronzeville residents] have an asset like the Paul G. Stewart campus. And because we live in a food desert it's good to see a grocery store on-site."
Inside the grocery store, which has a deli, an ice cream parlor, and sells fresh vegetables and lottery tickets, was Martha Williams, 66, who bought a hot dog sandwich.
"I like hot dogs especially freshly cooked ones," Williams said. "I no longer have to leave my building to go buy a hot dog or grab a sandwich."
John Garrett, a 34-year resident, was recognized at the grand opening for his recent 100th birthday.
"Me, I am glad to [still] be here. Every day I wake up seems like a birthday to me," he said.