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Rats 'The Size Of Dogs' Unleashed On Neighborhood During Construction Boom

By Mina Bloom | August 11, 2016 6:20am
 Construction in Old Town is driving huge rats into the neighborhood, residents say.
Construction in Old Town is driving huge rats into the neighborhood, residents say.
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OLD TOWN — Super-rats. Rats as big as dogs. New York-style rats.

These are just a few descriptions residents of Marshall Field Garden Apartment Homes gave of the rodents they said have taken over the 6-acre public housing complex, 1448 N. Sedgwick St.

"It's not uncommon to see 12 rats running around here," resident Tiffany Hall said while pointing to the sidewalk in front of the complex.

Hall said it's gotten so bad that she won't allow her 1-year-old, Neveah, out of her stroller while walking around the complex at night.

"She has to be in the stroller. They're not afraid of us. They come running up to us."

Tiffany Hall, 27, holding her 1-year-old daughter, Neveah, in front of the complex. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

 Residents of Marshall Field Gardens, as well as their friends and family, gather outside the complex on a recent afternoon.
Residents of Marshall Field Gardens, as well as their friends and family, gather outside the complex on a recent afternoon.
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DNAinfo/Mina Bloom

Since last summer, dumpsters have lined Sedgwick Street and Hudson Avenue while crews overhaul the interior and exterior of the complex, which is made up of 10 buildings bounded by Sedgwick and Blackhawk streets, and Hudson and Evergreen avenues.

It's a comprehensive renovation: All 628 apartments are getting completely revamped, and the buildings are getting amenities like a new fitness center, children's learning center and even an energy-efficient roof. The project is expected to be completed by December.

RELATED: City's Official Page About Rats Is the Stuff of Nightmares

While most residents interviewed by DNAinfo hailed the renovations as much-needed, all of them expressed concerned over what was commonly referred to as the "rat issue," which they say has only grown worse since construction started.

"We see all of the rats coming out of the holes," said Krystale Hall, who has lived in the complex for three years. "For a while, people were scared to come through the front. It was ridiculous. I used to leave at 4 a.m. [The rats] were ridiculous."

Star Spires, 30, who has lived in the complex for 10 years, called the issue "embarrassing."

"If you're bringing someone to your home who's never been here, and you've got six rats running around, left and right, side to side. They ain't got nowhere to go," she said.

Prekeena Mollet, 31, who has lived in the complex for more than a decade, demonstrated how she avoids the rats by hopping around from foot to foot.

"They're the size of dogs ... those little puppies,” she said.

Chicago-based developer Related Midwest bought the complex in March 2015.

A Related Midwest spokeswoman said the company inherited the rat problem, which has been going on for years. But she acknowledged that the problem has become worse during construction.

She said the company is focused on exterminating the rodents.

Residents of Marshall Field Gardens, as well as their friends and family, gather outside the complex on a recent afternoon. [DNAinfo/Mina Bloom]

"The excavation of the interior courtyard disturbed many of the pre-existing nests," she wrote in a prepared statement. "Since the start of the excavation, we have proactively retained an extermination company to visit the site on a weekly basis to remediate the rats as we complete this work."

By installing new trash compactors and "modifying" the dumpsters, crews were able to make improvements, the spokeswoman said. But she also acknowledged that the problem might continue until excavation ends this fall.

The city has put out rat poison at the site four times since Jan. 1 of this year, most recently in June, city spokeswoman Anne Sheahan said.

Crews "will continue to rebait the area and work with residents to eliminate food sources and conditions that can contribute to rodent problems until the issue is resolved," Sheahan said.

"It's like we got dropped from the sky"

Of course, rats aren't the only thing on residents' minds during the heavy construction.

Krystale Hall lives in one of the last apartments to get renovated. She said the work is taking a month longer than expected, which makes her life especially difficult because she has trouble walking after two knee surgeries.

She said she isn't always given proper notice when crews order her to be out of the apartment.

"Construction just came and knocked on our door and said we had to be out," she said, adding that they should've warned her in advance. "I'm tired of being displaced every day."

Related Midwest said it's in "constant communication" with the Marshall Field Gardens residents association, which holds monthly meetings for residents to talk about construction issues.

Other residents have to be out for much longer than Krystale Hall.

During construction, about 150 residents had to move for six to eight months. Related Midwest paid for all moving costs, the spokeswoman said.

A few residents said once the renovations are complete, the complex will better fit into Old Town — a largely affluent neighborhood that is continuing to see a development boom. 

"It's like we got dropped from the sky," resident Jay Williams said.

"You've got a $1 million house across the street, and then you just got this one block. It's funny," Williams said while sitting outside of the complex. 

"I feel like they're trying to fit in the neighborhood. There's nothing wrong with change."

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