LAKEVIEW — The former Diplomat Hotel will reopen its doors for an open house Thursday as the renovated Buffett Place, an independent housing building for at-risk populations.
Brinshore Development and nonprofit social services agency Thresholds started renovations on the 85-year-old Diplomat — long an eyesore to area residents — in late 2012 after winning a bid with the city to transform it into affordable housing for people with disabilities, mental illness or who are at risk for homelessness.
The city had shut down the Diplomat, 3208 N. Sheffield Ave., in 2009 for numerous building and fire code violations.
Now, the former Diplomat has been fully renovated as a single-resident occupancy building with 51 furnished studio apartments, a computer lab, community rooms, a small gym and a rooftop garden. On the ground floor, two retail shops will open, including Urban Meadows, a flower shop run by Thresholds.
On Thursday, interested neighbors are welcome to tour the Fred and Pamela Buffett Place from 8:30-10:30 a.m., said Emily Moen, director of public relations and marketing for Thresholds.
Single-resident occupancy residences, or SROs, are independent accessible housing often characterized as "housing of last resort." They've largely disappeared on the North Side, most recently prompting heated protests around the shuttering of the Chateau Hotel.
But in Lakeview, complaints of loitering and crime around places like the Chateau and Abbott Hotel made SROs targets for closure. The Diplomat is one of the few former SROs to remain affordable with the help of the city and private entities such as Thresholds and Brinshore.
"In Chicago, oftentimes SRO housing is mismanaged," Moen said. "It can disappear entirely. [But] it's an important safety net for people who are at risk for homelessness in the city."
Thresholds and the Chicago Housing Authority plan to schedule move-in dates in early February, Moen said. Already, more than 200 people have applied to live in the building, Moen said.
To qualify, individuals must show proof of disability and earn less than 60 percent of the area median income, or less than $30,960 for a single person, according to the city's economic development site.
Residents then pay 30 percent of their income each month as rent, a cost subsidized by the city, Moen said. If a resident starts earning more than 60 percent of the area median income, he or she can stay in the building but must pay the full rent of $790 a month, Moen said.
Thresholds will also offer mental health, employment and educational services at Buffett Place, giving residents an opportunity to access help if they need it.
But using those services is not a requirement to stay. The goal is "independent living," Moen said.
"It's a place where people can live with dignity and get their lives back on track," she said. "I think that Thresholds and Brinshore both have a history of producing housing that is a good neighbor and can be well-managed and part of the community."