JOLIET – The stabbing death Wednesday of a woman in an Evergreen Terrace laundry room has put the future of the beleaguered low-income housing facility back in the City Council’s spotlight.
District 2 Councilman Bob O’Dekirk, who is challenging Mayor Tom Giarrante and Andy Mihelich in the April 2015 election, on Thursday renewed his call for a detailed plan outlining what the city plans to do with the property should it win its lawsuit against its owners.
“I know senior city officials privately are saying they believe we can own Evergreen Terrace and make money on the property. I am not interested in owning Evergreen Terrace,” O’Dekirk said in an emailed statement.
“The whole purpose of the lawsuit is to tear the buildings down,” O’Dekirk said in his statement. “If that is no longer the direction the city is going to take, Mayor Giarrante needs to disclose this to the City Council and the citizens.”
Giarrante countered that the City Council had hired Chicago-based Holsten Real Estate Development Corp. to develop options for the property.
“Should we acquire the site, all stakeholders will be involved in our decisions moving forward with Evergreen,” Giarrante said.
The city has awaited word on the outcome of its lawsuit against Evergreen since May 21. A decision on the case by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle initially was expected within 30 to 60 days.
If Joliet wins the case, it can purchase the property from its owners, and then either develop or demolish all or part of it. If the owners win the case, they’ll keep the property and the city will owe them millions of dollars in court costs.
O’Dekirk said he also was concerned about the city’s potential liability from crimes committed on property it owns or controls. He contended it would open the city up to civil litigation that could cost taxpayers millions.
“Any good lawyer should know the city of Joliet will not be financially responsible for crime that occurs at Evergreen Terrace,” Giarrante responded in his email statement.
Giarrante has long maintained the project is a crime magnet.
A study by the Joliet Police Department that Giarrante made public in March showed the Broadway Street apartments have averaged 16 violent crimes per year for more than a decade, a rate more than three times the city average.
O’Dekirk, a 10-year veteran of the Joliet Police Department, characterized this week’s slaying as “a call to action.”
“It’s not enough to say, ‘We won the lawsuit,’” O’Dekirk said in his statement. “The city needs to be realistic on what can be done at that property, and more importantly, how much it will cost and how we will pay for it.”
Giarrante called Evergreen Terrace “a test of leadership” and said the city needs to address the problems that exist there.
“It’s not going to get better,” Giarrante said. “It was bad when O’Dekirk was on the force. It was bad when I was on the fire department.”