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55-Unit Affordable Apartment Complex Should Not Be Built, Alderman Says

By Heather Cherone | January 27, 2016 8:20am
 The proposed 55-unit building would reserve some units for veterans, developers said.
The proposed 55-unit building would reserve some units for veterans, developers said.
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Full Circle Communities

PORTAGE PARK — Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th) said Wednesday he would not support a plan to transform a plot of land that has been vacant for more than 10 years into a 55-unit apartment complex designed to house veterans and those struggling to find affordable housing.

Villegas, who announced his decision on social media a few hours after a community meeting about the project took place Tuesday evening, said the response from residents at was "overwhelmingly" negative.

Villegas said a "whole host" of concerns voiced by community members convinced him that the project would be a bad fit for Portage Park.

"It became crystal clear we needed to go back to the drawing board," Villegas said.

The $17 million project proposed by Full Circle Communities, a Chicago-based affordable housing developer, at Central and Waveland avenues, would have set aside approximately 20 percent of the apartments for veterans, project manager Lindsey Haines said.

The rest of the apartments would be designed to be affordable for families earning about $45,000 per year, or about 60 percent of Chicago's Area Median Income based on the size of the family.

Haines said the fact this project won't move forward does not change the fact that more than 8,000 people living within a mile of Central and Waveland avenues pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing.

"People are really squeezed by housing costs in Portage Park," Haines said. "There is a big need and we hope to fill it with a different project at a different location."

Many of those who attended the meeting said the project was too dense, would lower property values and increase crime in the area. Others said they were concerned that it would snarl traffic and making parking impossible near Central Avenue and Addison Street.

Dubbed The Central, the complex at 3655 N. Central Ave. would be the second project in Chicago for Full Circle, which just finished building a similar apartment complex in Avondale designed for residents with motor and sensory disabilities.

Since his election in April, Villegas said he had been working to market the narrow property next to a CVS drugstore and across the street from Community First Medical Center, formerly known as Our Lady of the Resurrection Hospital. He asked community members to contact his office with ideas for how the property should be redeveloped.

A restriction on the property's deed — placed there when Dominick's closed in 2004 and the property was sold — prohibits food from being sold on the land, Villegas said.

The property was part of the 38th Ward until the election, when Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) defeated six challengers to replace former Ald. Tim Cullerton, who retired.

From 2011-15, Sposato represented the 36th Ward, which saw its boundaries change significantly once the new map went into effect.

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