JOLIET – A coalition of neighborhood groups on Monday urged the Joliet City Council to move ahead with the acquisition of Evergreen Terrace and questioned the motive behind redevelopment plans now being drawn up.
The statement from the Unity Community Development Corp. Neighborhood Leadership Council comes as the council prepares to examine plans said to outline costs as much as $70 million in city money to redevelop the low-income housing complex.
The City Council must decide whether to move forward and acquire the 356-apartment complex after winning a 10-year condemnation case against the owners.
“Reversing course, walking away, deciding that it’s just too expensive is not an option if your goal is to improve Joliet,” said Amy Sanchez, president of the leadership council.
The council is tentatively scheduled to meet July 27 to hear redevelopment plans for Evergreen Terrace. Mayor Bob O’Dekirk recently said that he has asked the city’s consultant to come up with more alternatives after one plan showed the project costing $70 million.
“We fear that the true purpose of this particular plan is to provide you with an excuse to walk away from the purchase of Evergeen Terrace and leave it in the hands of its current owners,” Sanchez said to the council. “We hope we are wrong.”
O’Dekirk challenged Sanchez’s comment that the plans being developed for the July meeting are “forced.”
“Several of us on the council have been calling for a plan for several years,” he said. “I don’t think trying to get a plan in place before we decide to spend millions of dollars is a forced plan.”
O’Dekirk also said past statements by city officials that Evergreen Terrace could be redeveloped without spending city tax dollars “was a lie when they said it. It’s a lie today. It’s going to cost money.”
The group also presented a statement from the grandson of the late Rev. Isaac Singleton Sr., a Joliet pastor and civil rights leader who criticized Evergreen Terrace because it crowded low-income people into one area.
The statement from Damond Singleton called on the city to remove the current Evergreen Terrace management and find adequate housing for the people who live there.
I-55 and I-80 crossroads
The council on Tuesday will vote whether to end a development agreement with O&M Properties, the company that at one time planned a lifestyle mall on a 264-acre site at Interstates 55 and 80.
City Manager Jim Hock said Culliman Properties wants the development agreement ended so it can complete an acquisition of the site on Wednesday.
The Culliman acquisition follows another plan from Hillwood Investment Properties to develop the site primarily for warehouse space. O’Dekirk said Culliman does not have a plan for the site yet, but, “We made it clear that it would not pass the council as a logistics plan.”