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Local News

Evergreen Terrace trial could start Tuesday

A view of the Evergreen Terrace housing complex in the 300 block of North Broadway St. in Joliet.
A view of the Evergreen Terrace housing complex in the 300 block of North Broadway St. in Joliet.

JOLIET – The trial over the price of Evergreen Terrace is scheduled to start Tuesday.

In the days leading to the trial, the city of Joliet and Evergreen Terrace owners discussed a possible settlement price for the 356-unit apartment complex.

Failing an agreement, the case goes to a federal jury.

The city in September won its case condemning the federally subsidized, low-income housing complex on Broadway Street.

This trial would determine what the city has to pay to take ownership. The price could be anywhere from $13.7 million to $23.5 million, based on appraisals the two sides have filed in federal court.

After that, the case may not be over.

A spokeswoman for Evergreen Terrace said owners have expressed their intention to appeal the September ruling that allowed Joliet to take over the property.

And, whatever price is set for Evergreen Terrace, it’s not clear the City Council would agree to pay it.

The City Council was unanimous in 2005 in launching the condemnation lawsuit that contended mismanagement of Evergreen Terrace led to unsuitable living conditions and high crime rates at the complex.

But the council now is divided over how bad conditions are at the complex and whether city ownership is a good idea.

Councilman Bob O’Dekirk, the most vocal skeptic of the city takeover, said a closed session meeting last week to discuss a possible settlement price was “very contentious.”

“Even if we agree on a price, where is the money going to come from?” O’Dekirk said.

The city has planned to issue bonds to finance the acquisition. The bonds would be repaid through subsidized rent the city would collect from the apartments.

But it’s not clear how many apartments would stay and how many would be eliminated. Part of the city’s case for condemning Evergreen Terrace is that there are too many apartments on too little land at the site.

“Before we see an agreement, we’ve got to see where the money is going to come from and what we’re going to do with the property,” O’Dekirk said.

The city has hired Holsten Development to work on a redevelopment plan for Evergreen Terrace. Peter Holsten, the head of the company, said at a community meeting in February that the city was just beginning to collect ideas from residents before developing a plan for Evergreen Terrace.

Mayor Tom Giarrante said the city will turn to Holsten to develop a plan if it agrees to buy the property.

Giarrante was a council member in 2005 when the city voted to pursue condemnation. He has continued to advocate for city ownership of Evergreen Terrace, saying different management would be better for the residents living there.

But his comments suggest paying the price for Evergreen Terrace is no sure thing.

“Why pay to develop a plan before you decide to buy it?” Giarrante said. “Once we decide to buy it, we’ll sit down with Holsten and meet with the residents and develop a plan.”

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