JOLIET – A federal judge has ruled in favor of the city of Joliet’s bid to take over the Evergreen Terrace housing complex.
The long-awaited ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Charles Norgle allows Joliet to proceed with its condemnation against the privately owned but government-subsidized apartment complex for low-income residents.
Mayor Tom Giarrante said the 54-page ruling came down about 3 p.m. Thursday.
Burnham Management Co., the firm that manages the 356-unit facility at 350 N. Broadway St., said it plans to appeal the ruling.
The next step in the trial will be to determine the price the city will pay the owners of the Broadway Street housing complex.
The city has pursued condemnation against the facility since 2005, citing crime problems and poor living conditions as major concerns. Norgle has been considering the case since the condemnation trial ended in mid-May.
Giarrante said he was pleased with the ruling. “I’ve been cautiously optimistic,” he said.
Owners to appeal
Burnham Management Co. said in a written statement that it was committed “to Evergreen Terrace and the nearly 800 people who call it home.”
“While we are disappointed with this ruling, we plan to appeal and will continue to move forward singularly focused on providing safe, affordable housing for those who need it most,” the statement said.
City Attorney Jeff Plyman said he believed any appeal would have to follow the next phase of the condemnation trial, which would set a price for Evergreen Terrace. The city will have to pay that price to take ownership.
“The trial is to determine the value of the property,” Plyman said. “You establish that through appraisers. Each side has a couple of appraisers, so there’s not that many witnesses. I figure it will take a couple weeks.”
City Council reaction
Most members of the City Council were pleased by the ruling.
“I think it’s a win for the city and a win for the residents of Evergreen Terrace,” said At-Large Councilman Mike Turk, who was on the council when it began condemnation proceedings in 2005. “They told us it would be a while, but I didn’t take think it would take this long.”
At-Large Councilwoman Jan Quillman also was a member of the council that initiated the action nine years ago.
“It’s been a long, hard battle,” Quillman said. “For me it’s always been about quality of life issues for the folks that live there.”
“With the recent tragedy there, something has to be done,” she said, referring to the Sept. 3 fatal stabbing of a woman in an Evergreen Terrace laundry room.
“I am glad the city won,” said District 2 Councilman Bob O’Dekirk, who in recent months has questioned what the city plans to do with the property should it win the suit. O’Dekirk is challenging Giarrante next year for the mayoral seat.
“We spent a lot of money. It would have been unacceptable if we lost, but to say we won a lawsuit isn’t enough,” O’Dekirk said. “There has to be a viable, realistic plan on what we’re going to do with the property.”
At-Large Council Jim McFarland issued a statement saying he would pursue demolition of Evergreen Terrace, which he believes was the original intent of the lawsuit.
District 1 Councilman Larry Hug has been one of the council’s most vocal critics of the Evergreen Terrace condemnation.
“I’m very curious as to how we’re going to pay for it if we choose to take it over,” Hug said.
Plyman said the city has tried to reassure Evergreen Terrace residents that nothing will happen overnight.
“We’ll operate transitionally and work with each family individually and determine what’s best for them,” Plyman said. “We want to reassure residents that they will be taken care of and that they will have adequate housing no matter what.”