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Controversial Jeff Park Mixed-Income Housing Plan Won't Get State Funding

By Alex Nitkin | September 29, 2017 2:27pm | Updated on October 1, 2017 12:39pm
 A rendering for the seven-story, 100-unit apartment complex proposed at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy.
A rendering for the seven-story, 100-unit apartment complex proposed at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy.
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Full Circle Communities

LOOP — A controversial plan to build a 100-unit mixed-income apartment complex in Jefferson Park was not included among the 20 affordable developments awarded state tax credits Friday, dealing a blow to the proposal's chances of being funded this year.

Developer Full Circle Communities had sought a patchwork of financial backers for the building, set to replace the former FSP food distributor at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy., including private grants and city aid packages.

But 45th Ward Ald. John Arena , a chief backer of the plan, said in August that the "majority of the funding" would be solicited through low-income housing tax credits from Springfield.

Of the 58 proposals submitted for state tax credits this year, the Jefferson Park plan did not score high enough in the Illinois Housing Development Authority's rating system to make the final cut, according to spokesman Waldon Swenson.

But Full Circle Communities may apply for the funding again next year, Swenson added, noting that many of the projects granted tax credits this year were denied during previous rounds.

Full Circle President Joshua Wilmoth called the authority's decision "disappointing" in a Friday statement, but he added that the project is "still under consideration for financing through a number of sources."

"We are committed to bringing much-needed, high-quality, mixed-income, multifamily housing to the Jefferson Park community, and are continuing to evaluate all of our options to bring this project to fruition," Wilmoth said.

In his own statement, Arena called the board's decision to pass on the Northwest Highway proposal "disheartening."

The plan calls for an seven-story L-shaped building with a full floor of retail space and 62 parking spaces. Eighty of its units would be rented below market rate, including 30 reserved for CHA voucher holders.

The structure would include 51 three-bedroom units, 17 two-bedroom apartments, 22 one-bedrooms and 10 studios, according to Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff. Rents would range $300-$1,900 per unit.

The City Council earlier this year approved construction of a 27,000-square-foot storage warehouse as a companion to the apartments on the same property.

If built, the apartment complex would roughly double the number of affordable units in Jefferson Park, a neighborhood of about 27,000 residents.

Full Circle Communities sparked an explosive backlash from neighbors when it unveiled its proposal in February, drawing ire from hundreds of residents who said the new neighbors would ramp up crime and drag down property values across the neighborhood.

The controversy has rippled across the Northwest Side, spawning a new grass-roots community group on each side of the issue.

Arena supported the proposal from its outset with the understanding that funding was never guaranteed, he said last month. But even if the plan falls through, he'd hunt down a "mix of retail and residential" tenants to fill the space, added.

"If the funding goes through, it will go forward," Arena said. "If not, we'll go back and talk to development community again, and say, 'Here's an opportunity in Jefferson Park to build housing and provide opportunities for families.'"