JOLIET – A potential development team for Evergreen Terrace painted a bright future for the site last week at a meeting where apartment complex residents were more focused on what will happen to them.
About 100 people attended the meeting, according to city officials, showing high interest in the future of the low-income housing complex from residents of the apartments, civic leaders and people in surrounding neighborhoods.
Peter Holsten, who would lead the redevelopment project, repeatedly said there is no plan yet and the future depends on community input.
At the same time, he and architects said some buildings will remain and renovations could start in mid-2016, giving some shape to what will happen if the city gains control of Evergreen Terrace as expected.
The potential monkey wrench in everything is that Joliet does not have Evergreen Terrace yet. The private owners could still appeal a federal judge’s decision in September to let the city take the property. And city officials do not yet know how much they will have to pay the owners.
But it was evident at Thursday’s meeting that Holsten Development and Landon Bone Baker Architects are making some plans for what they would do with the 356-unit apartment complex.
“We feel that there will be some renovations, some tear-down,” Holsten said.
How much would be torn down was not said.
Architect Tyler Brown said the three brick buildings that line Bluff Street would likely stay – at least initially.
“We can’t tear down the whole site now and start over, even if we wanted to,” Brown said, adding that at 33 units per acre, Evergreen Terrace is “pretty dense” and the redevelopment would likely lead to fewer apartments.
But Holsten later said other urban projects done by his company in Chicago typically are 35 units per acre. That raised eyebrows among those who question the city’s motives in taking over Evergreen Terrace.
“The intent is to push out black people,” said Abraham Mwaura with the Rainbow Push Coalition. He told the development team that city officials have targeted the mostly black population at Evergreen Terrace.
“You’re walking into a situation where it’s the people who have been demonized, not the buildings,” Mwaura told Holsten.
Mwaura made claims that, to some extent, were previously made by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development when it fought the city’s takeover attempt before reaching a legal settlement with Joliet.
That settlement includes a requirement that the city find two alternative Joliet residences for any Evergreen Terrace resident who loses an apartment in the redevelopment project, City Manager Jim Hock said.
The city also is trying to settle with the owners of the federally subsidized housing project to reach an agreed buying price before that matter goes to a jury trial, scheduled for March 10, Hock said.
“At this point, they haven’t been receptive,” Hock said.
Burnham Management, the company that manages Evergreen Terrace, issued a statement before the meeting, saying in part: “We continue to invest in Evergreen Terrace and the people who call it home.”
Any Joliet resident wanting to complete the Evergreen Terrace Community Design survey can do so by going to www.cityofjoliet.info. Hard copies of the survey will be available at the Information Desk at City Hall, 150 W. Jefferson St. in Joliet.