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Local News

Joliet leans toward buying Evergreen Terrace, but future after purchase uncertain

JOLIET – Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said he expects the City Council to vote to buy Evergreen Terrace by a Sept. 1 deadline, but what happens after that is not clear.

“We’ve got to make a decision in the next two weeks,” O’Dekirk said Friday. “I think we know how that’s going to shake out.”

O’Dekirk said it has been apparent from public meetings on the matter and individual talks he has had with council members that most are in favor of the acquisition.

As of Friday, however, Joliet officials are not sure what happens if they do deliver a $15 million check by the court-ordered due date just three weeks away.

“There are so many questions still to be answered,” O’Dekirk said.

The mayor hopes some of those questions will be addressed Tuesday during a meeting of city officials, Evergreen Terrace lawyers and a federal mediator.

But city officials do not know if the property, which includes 356 low-income housing apartments, will become Joliet’s responsibility Sept. 1. If it does, city officials have not decided who will run it.

Evergreen Terrace owners have filed notice that they intend to appeal a federal judge’s decision to award the property to Joliet after a 10-year eminent domain case. They also intend to appeal the jury-set price of $15 million.

If Joliet does take over Evergreen Terrace on Sept. 1, there is no guarantee the city will keep it.

And even the $15 million price could be upped with a successful appeal.

Councilman Pat Mudron said it is hard to imagine paying $15 million for something without getting complete control. Even so, Mudron plans to vote in favor of buying Evergreen Terrace.

“I think we need to control our own destiny,” he said, noting problems at the housing complex over the years.

Until last week, it has been assumed that once the city did take ownership, management would be turned over to Holsten Real Estate Development and Management Corp., which has served as the city’s consultant.

But that changed when the Housing Authority of Joliet made a presentation to the City Council on its capacity to manage and redevelop Evergreen Terrace.

Councilman John Gerl said authority representatives “had a command of the situation when it comes to housing.”

“To be honest, I didn’t get that same comfort level from Holsten,” Gerl said.

Holsten made its presentation of four detailed plans for Evergreen Terrace on July 27.

Councilwoman Jan Quillman, who had been critical of Holsten previously for not being available before July 27, said, “I don’t think Holsten gave us what we paid them for.”

Quillman said the city needs to consider the authority as an option and supports buying Evergreen Terrace.

“This has been a long, 10-year fight, and we don’t want to let go now,” she said. “We have to move forward.”

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