Roosevelt Square strains
Progress of 2,441-unit development - and Oscar D'Angelo - take center stage at raucous meeting
05/19/2010 10:00 PM
A meeting Tuesday billed as a chance to discuss the extension of Near West Side tax increment financing district turned away from municipal economics and into a mini-referendum about the progress and future of Roosevelt Square, a mixed-income development meant to replace the Chicago Housing Authority’s ABLA Homes.
Capping off the session was an approximately six-minute peroration in favor of homeownership offered by Oscar D’Angelo, the neighborhood wheeler-dealer, booster and gadfly.
No one else was afforded the chance to speak at such length, but toward the end of the meeting D’Angelo left his seat in the front row of the Smyth School auditorium and approached the podium where Department of Community Development Commissioner Mary Bonome was reading off questions those in the crowd had submitted on slips of paper.
Earlier during the questions, D’Angelo and University Village Association Executive Director Dennis O’Neill demanded time on the floor for D’Angelo, but Bonome rebuffed them.
“With all due respect, Dennis, as a delegate agency for the City of Chicago,” Bonome said, referring to what the city calls organizations like UVA, which receives a taxpayer grant, “you need to show some respect and courtesy to the process.”
The second time D’Angelo rose, Bonome gave him the podium and microphone. D’Angelo yelled with a man who told at him to write his questions down and wait for answers like others in the room were asked to do, and then delivered a podium-pounding speech after someone cut off the electricity to his microphone.
|Roosevelt/Racine TIF district boundary mapSource: City of Chicago|
He criticized the approach that Related Midwest, the developer charged with building Roosevelt Square, is now floating for the next round of construction, saying any shift away from for-sale housing at the stalled real estate project was a mistake.
“At every community meeting I’ve ever attended, the people who show up are the homeowners,” D’Angelo said. “If you pay $2,500 in rent, which is a fancy apartment, they don’t come! They don’t care about the schools, they don’t care about the police, they don’t care about the parks! It’s the people who have a vested interest! Homeownership is the answer.”
“I’m all about issues, not due process,” D’Angelo said to reporters after the meeting let out.
Related Midwest has built 591 out of the more than 2,440 units envisioned for Roosevelt Square, including 245 CHA replacement rentals; 185 affordable for-sale or rental homes; 159 market-rate for-sale units; and two market-rate rentals. This data comes from quarterly court filings the Habitat Company submits to a federal judge as part of the CHA’s Gautreaux consent decree.
The project is to be built over six separate phases. Related Midwest has finished the first phase and the rental portion of the second. Kerry Dickson, a Related Midwest vice president, told the crowd Tuesday that the next round of construction at Roosevelt Square would serve to “re-start” for-sale units.
In finishing phase two, Dickson said the firm would build 193 for-sale units in six-flats, three-flats and townhomes, some portion of which would be priced affordably, the rest at market rates. Dickson said Related would like to be “under construction on a six-flat at the corner of Grenshaw and Throop hopefully this summer.”
Related would also build two 60-unit rental buildings that were originally slated to host 54 for-sale condominiums. Fifty-seven units of Chicago Housing Authority replacement housing and affordable units are “on hold for now,” he told the audience.
The precise plan for the next round of construction at Roosevelt Square has been subject to varying estimates this year, however, and Mike Kelly, Related’s marketing director for Roosevelt Square, reiterated after the meeting Tuesday that construction still hinges on market conditions as well as extending the life of the Roosevelt-Racine TIF.
The City of Chicago and Related want to extend the life of the Roosevelt-Racine TIF an additional 12 years, to 2035.
Dickson said Related needed more time to use money collected out of the TIF because, although it was created in 1998, they weren’t named developer of Roosevelt Square until 2003. “A significant amount of TIF had burned off,” he said, by the time they were in charge.
Like other TIF districts, the property taxes collected above a frozen rate inside the Roosevelt-Racine district are reserved for TIF-eligible expenses. The area’s current TIF redevelopment plan lists 16 potential uses for TIF funds, and estimates $47 million in spending over the life of the district.
The city council created the district, a 212-acre swath, in November 1998 to support the whole-cloth remaking of the ABLA Homes, which consisted of several public housing developments on either side of Roosevelt Road, roughly between Morgan and Ashland.
Last August, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill giving the city authority to extend the life of the TIF, and Tuesday’s community meeting began a process that will include review of the extension by several local government bodies, culminating with a city council vote.
But many the questions Tuesday focused on the income mix at the redevelopment site.
“Don’t you think having big ratios of rental to for-sale affects crime and home values?” went one question read off by Bonome.
The development would be balanced, Dickson argued, with the unit mix falling along the lines of the housing authority’s stated ideal for its mixed income properties — one-third of the units reserved as market-rate homes, one-third are priced affordably and one-third constituting replacement units for demolished CHA buildings.
A number of people in the audience Tuesday saw other factors at play, and criticized rental housing.
“I think they are doing the easy solution for them,” Ernesto Saucedo, who lives near Morgan and Taylor, said of Related.
This article has been changed to correct the number of TIF-eligible expenses listed in the current Roosevelt-Racine TIF redevelopment plan. That number is 16.