SAUGANASH — A plan to build 35 single-family homes in the heart of Sauganash on the site of a former hand-tool factory, a project stalled for more than a decade by scandal and recession, will get underway in March, officials said Friday.
The original project, approved by city officials in 2004, fell apart amid a scandal that ultimately landed developer Tony Rezko in jail and languished as the 2008 housing crash and Great Recession brought most new home construction to a halt.
"Second time is the charm," said Andrew Konovodoff, president of K. Hovnanian Homes, the developer of the project.
Ald. Maragaret Laurino (39th), who is running for re-election, hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, with dignitaries rushing from a heated tent with catered appetizers and desserts next to an open bar to turn over a few clods of trucked-in dirt while posing for photographs.
"We have been waiting a long time for this ground breaking," Laurino said.
Union representatives, who declined to speak with a reporter from DNAinfo Chicago, protested the groundbreaking, shouting during the brief presentation and speeches and greeting attendees with a giant blowup rat.
Konovodoff said the development will be built by both union and non-union workers.
K. Hovnanian Homes plans to follow the plan laid out by Rezko’s Rezmar Development nearly a decade ago, with slight changes to the architecture of the homes, which are expected to sell for $700,000 to $900,000, officials said.
The firm is still waiting for some land-development approvals and building permits, Konovodoff said.
Home buyers will be able to choose from five different styles of 2½-story single-family homes ranging from 4,200-4,500 square feet with detached three-car garages, according to the plans. In addition, buyers will be able to choose whether to add an elevator to their home.
With land development work set to start in March, construction of a model home is expected to start in April, with sales beginning this summer and the first closings in December, Konovodoff said.
Andrew Mooney, the commissioner of the city's department of planning and development, said the new subdivision dubbed Sauganash Glen is the largest single-family home project to be built in Chicago since the Great Recession that began in 2008.
"Chicago is truly recovering," Mooney said.
Construction had been expected to start last spring on the site at 4300 W. Peterson Ave., which was once home to the corporate headquarters of Walgreens and the Skil-Bosch Power Tools factory. Since 2006, it has been weed-strewn and enclosed by a chain-link fence.
But an effort to change the plans to make the alleys behind the homes public streets to ensure the garbage from the homes would be hauled by city crews, rather than a private service, delayed construction, officials said.
Although work had been slated to start in October on the new homes, it was pushed back again.
Laurino's bid for re-election is being challenged by former Forest Glen Community Club President Robert Murphy, an architect, and retired college professor Joe Laiacona. Early voting is underway, and Election Day is Feb. 24.
Development in the 39th Ward has become an issue in the election with Murphy criticizing Laurino for not doing more to bring new projects to neighborhoods like Sauganash.
Laurino has said she is proud of her record on development and called Murphy's criticism "somewhat odd."
Mooney made a point at the groundbreaking of saying no other alderman "works harder for her community" than Laurino and Konovodoff thanked Laurino for "shepherding" the project through City Hall's bureaucracy.
A proposal to build a fifth entrance to the Sauganash Trail from the new homes on land now controlled by ComEd has been dropped, said Manuel Galvan, a spokesman for Laurino.
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