JOLIET – Evergreen Terrace could be under redevelopment by mid-2016, the potential developer of the site said Thursday.
The possible timetable was presented at a meeting in which the motives for the takeover of the complex were questioned, with two speakers saying the city was trying to push African-Americans out of Joliet.
The 356-unit apartment complex for low-income residents still is in the hands of private owners. The city is not likely to know until a March trial what it will have to pay for Evergreen Terrace. And, the private owners still could appeal a federal judge’s decision in September that allowed the city to condemn the complex and take it over.
But the community meeting on the future of Evergreen Terrace did provide some idea of what is likely to happen and when.
“We’re talking about possibilities tonight. We don’t have a plan,” said Peter Holsten with Holsten Development, the company hired by the city to plan the redevelopment of Evergreen Terrace.
Holsten said the company does not have a timetable. “But,” he added, “we don’t expect any construction to occur until well into next year.”
He told an audience that included Evergreen Terrace residents, “Probably a year and a half from now for us to get underway. We don’t want you to panic. We’re going to have more meetings like this.”
It was apparent at some points in the meeting that some residents believe the project is an attempt to move them out. They asked questions about the prospects for staying in a redeveloped Evergreen Terrace or somewhere else in Joliet.
Holsten and City Manager Jim Hock said while Evergreen Terrace is likely to have fewer units, residents would have an option to live elsewhere in Joliet.
The Rev. Craig Purchase referred to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying the federal agency was concerned that city officials “were pushing a lot of black people out of Joliet.”
Purchase criticized a city plan to find other housing for Evergreen Terrace residents when the number of units there are reduced. “There is no housing in Joliet for these people to go into,” he said.
Holsten promised there would be alternative housing.
“We’re either going to build it or we’re going to find it. But you’re not going to be put out,” Holsten said. “You can take that to the bank.”
Abraham Mwaura with the Rainbow Push Coalition told Holsten there is a lot of distrust about the city’s motives.
“You know that you are walking into a very racialized situation,” Mwaura said.