NEAR WEST SIDE — The Chicago Housing Authority is scrapping parts of the original master plan for a Near West Side mixed-income development and soon will seek new proposals on how to finish the massive project.
At a Chicago Housing Authority meeting last month, the CHA's Michael Merchant announced that the CHA would soon be issuing a Request For Proposals for a new master plan for Roosevelt Square, a $600 million development of mixed-income housing on the city's Near West Side.
The request to developers will go out sometime between April and June, CHA spokesman Matt Aguilar said this week.
"CHA is revisiting the Master Plan at Roosevelt Square to ensure the plan created 10 or more years ago makes sense in today’s real estate market," Aguilar said.
The decision is part of the housing authority's larger revision of the Plan for Transformation, a 12-year-old development blueprint intended to revitalize the city's public housing system by creating a combination of market-rate units and affordable and low-income, government-funded housing on its properties citywide.
Originally conceived in 2002 as a replacement for the violence-ridden ABLA Homes, Roosevelt Square takes up 35 blocks on the Near West Side. The development's original six-phase master plan called for the creation of 2,441 units of housing, including a combination of low-income rental units, affordable housing for working-class residents and market-rate condominiums.
Between 2004 and 2008, a total of 591 units were built at Roosevelt Square, with 245 public-housing units, 185 affordable and 159 market-rate units, according to Aguilar.
In addition, 15,000 square feet of retail has been completed along Taylor Street west of Racine Avenue. Although the plan's second phase calls for more retail development along Roosevelt Road and Racine Aveneue, it's unclear how much, if any, of that work has been completed.
Increasing the number of affordable and market-rate units at Roosevelt Square could reduce violence within the development and potentially attract needed retail to the Near West Side, said Connecting4Communities founder Dennis O'Neill, who attended the January meeting and who has pushed for the new master plan. He said the current master plan did not have enough public input.
"There was originally a really poor community input process for [Roosevelt Square]," said O'Neill, who also stressed that collecting input from current Roosevelt Square residents and local institutions like University of Illinois at Chicago and schools is crucial to the development's success.
Representatives from the mayor’s office, the Chicago Police Department, Roosevelt Square managers Related Midwest, Smyth Elementary and Connecting4Communities were at the meeting last month.
Kathy Catrambone, executive direcctor of the University Village Association, echoed O'Neill, saying her asssociation wants to see fewer low-income rentals and more retail development, ideally at a still-undeveloped lot at Taylor and Loomis streets. She said the association also supports Roosevelt Square's plan for a park at Taylor and Lytle streets — which would be partly funded by last year's extension of Roosevelt Square's Tax Increment Financing district.
In December, Near West Side Police Cmdr. Melissa Staples declared a stretch of neighborhood containing some Roosevelt Square units and near another public housing project as her "No. 1 priority as far as violence in the district."
Staples' comment came after DNAinfo Chicago reported that a woman had lost her Roosevelt Square home, partly due to a gun-filled rap video shot by her son at her apartment along the 1200 block of West Washburne Street.
At the time, multiple Roosevelt Square residents expressed frustration with the complex's management and concerns for their safety.
Roosevelt Square's second phase of development, which includes two apartment buildings at 1255 and 1355 W. Roosevelt Road, would still move ahead, according to O'Neill. In addition, the foster care organization SOS Children's Villages Illinois plans to break ground on 14 single-family foster homes along the 1200 block of West Washburne by spring.
While O'Neill said a revision of Roosevelt Square's master plan was necessary, he worried that CHA's timeline didn't allow for adequate planning and community feedback.
"I'm glad that [CHA] has decided to agree to this, but I strongly believe that three months is way too short a time to develop a good master plan. It's just too fast," he said.