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Clergy Driving Washington Park Development As Interest Moves To Woodlawn

By Sam Cholke | October 25, 2017 6:14am | Updated on October 27, 2017 11:33am
 St. Edmund's Oasis is the latests development in Washington Park as clergy continue to drive the development market in the neighborhood.
St. Edmund's Oasis is the latests development in Washington Park as clergy continue to drive the development market in the neighborhood.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

WASHINGTON PARK — Washington Park clergy are driving residential development in the neighborhood as speculation around the Obama Presidential Center remains concentrated farther east in Woodlawn.

The St. Edmund’s Redevelopment Corp. on Tuesday cut the ribbon on 58 new affordable rent apartments at 227 E. 61st St., making it the largest developer in Washington Park with more than 700 units built in the last 27 years.

The Rev. Richard Tolliver, who recently retired as rector of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church and who founded the development group in 1990, said he’s already thinking about building another 49 units of housing, and there are no other developers even close to doing the same amount of work in the neighborhood.

“When the economy was going well around 2005, we had a lot of developers doing condos in multiunit buildings, and then we saw the recession wipe that out,” Tolliver said.

He said the neighborhood still is recovering from the recession and has not seen the same level of property speculation as Woodlawn.

When the Obama Presidential Center chose Jackson Park over Washington Park last year, speculators who had been looking at the Washington Park neighborhood moved to Woodlawn, which has seen property values spike in the last six months by as much as 23 percent.

Since the decision of where to build the library in July 2016, the city has issued only one permit for a new building in Washington Park, the XS Tennis facility being built at 5400 S. State St.

Meanwhile, the city has issued 18 permits for new buildings in Woodlawn in the same period, many of them market-rate three flats and single-family homes, as well as affordable apartment buildings by nonprofit developer Preservation of Affordable Housing.

While there are for-profit developers pitching projects in Woodlawn now, development in Washington Park continues to be driven largely by clergy working on affordable housing developments.

Tolliver said he’s already planning another project of approximately 50 affordable apartments in partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority near 63rd Street and Indiana Avenue.

The Rev. Torrey Barrett, director of the K.L.E.O. Center in Washington Park, is now also pushing new housing development in the neighborhood.

Barrett is proposing a $23.5 million 58-unit apartment building for 63 E. Garfield Blvd. Like St. Edmund’s projects, the plan for apartments geared toward artists and studio and retail space relies heavily on tax incentives to make the project work.

Like St. Edmund’s, the apartments will be rented as affordable subsidized apartments, but unlike St. Edmund’s none will be CHA units.