DOWNTOWN — Those hoping to work on a revamp of a Near West Side mixed-income housing development say deadlines set by the Chicago Housing Authority for the project don't provide enough time to address the area's complex social issues.
About 80 people turned up at Thursday’s meeting at CHA headquarters to ask questions related to a revamp of the massive mixed-income Roosevelt Square development along with the revamp of Oakwood Shores, a 94-acre property in the city’s Bronzeville neighborhood.
The CHA announced in January that it would be revisiting plans for Roosevelt Square as part of a larger overhaul of its Plan For Transformation, a 12-year-old housing plan aimed at kickstarting the city's public housing system. There are still 84 undeveloped acres of land in Roosevelt Square after CHA halted construction after just 591 of 2,441 planned units were built.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued for both properties on Feb. 24. Rather than lay out a blueprint of requirements, the RFP asked interested parties to demonstrate their firm’s expertise in areas like land planning and market analysis.
Developers have until March 11 to ask questions of the CHA before they must put in a proposal by 10 a.m. March 21. After a developer is chosen, the firm will have six months to come up with a plan for revamping the complex.
Asked about the March deadline, Matt Aguilar, a spokesman for CHA, pointed to CHA policy saying RFPs "must run for a period sufficient to achieve effective competition, which in the case of paid advertisements, should generally be run not less than once each week for two consecutive weeks."
But at Thursday’s meeting, several architects and design teams voiced concerns with the project’s short time frame.
“You’re giving us four or five days, including weekends, to get our packages together on a very complex project,” said Martin Stern of U.S. Equities Realty, addressing a panel of CHA representatives.
“It’s not ideal, but as a consultant you’re only as good as what you can do in a hurry,” said William James, principal consultant at Camiros, a firm that specializes in urban design and planning.
While applicants may choose to submit plans for either Oakwood Shores or Roosevelt Square, James said his firm plans to submit proposals for both.
It would be ideal to have more time to address the very different needs of those areas, James said.
“I just think that’s how CHA works. Regardless of the quality of these proposals, they have their timeline. Six months is way too short,” said James, who noted that his firm had budgeted years to work on similar projects.
Near West Side community organizer Dennis O’Neill was present at Thursday’s meeting and also echoed those concerns about the project’s timeframe.
“I believe that six months is too short a time to turn in a really good product on a development that is this complex. Going ahead with this timetable would be a poor expenditure of public funds,” O’Neill said.
But, according to Ameera Ashraf-O’Neil, a senior project manager with the architecture firm Urban Works, many of these firms have dealt with the CHA before and so already have an idea of what kind of proposal to craft.
“So it’s like anything in life. If you want it, you’re gonna go for it. If you think it’s not enough time, then you won’t pursue it,” she said.
Developer Related Midwest is currently handling both development and property management for Roosevelt Square.