Residents should not think Joliet can create a greenway along the Des Plaines River through redevelopment of Evergreen Terrace, Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said Monday.
“It’s about time the city of Joliet started telling the truth about this,” O’Dekirk, a critic of the city’s Evergreen Terrace plans even before he became mayor, said Monday. “There was talk of a marina and sailboats on the shipping canal. It’s time that we got realistic about this.”
O’Dekirk made his comments at a City Council meeting where Holsten Development, the city’s ownership partner in the 156-unit apartment complex now named Riverwalk Homes, presented options for redevelopment of the property.
Those options ranged from a demolition of two of the seven apartment buildings on the property with aesthetic improvements to the remaining 319 apartments to a complete demolition of all buildings replaced by townhomes.
But a conversion into townhomes isn’t really an option if the city wants to recover what it spent on Evergreen Terrace, said Andrea Keeney, senior development manager with Holsten.
“A project of this type couldn’t be done here unless the city was willing to walk away from getting paid its $11.4 million,” Keeney said.
Joliet paid $15 million for Evergreen Terrace but had used more than $3.5 million in funds set aside for purchase of the complex. Keeney presented plans based on recovering $11.4 million.
While Keeney did not want to present the townhome option at yet to be scheduled community meetings, Council member Jan Quillman insisted that it be in the mix.
“You have to present that because that’s what people were told,” Quillman said.
O’Dekirk said the city’s redevelopment options were limited by a settlement made with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development during the litigation.
The mayor’s comments were prompted by resident Damon Zdonich, who pointed to plans going back to 1921 for a long greenway along the west side of the Des Plaines River.
“Let’s make sure the future plan improves and enhances the near West Side,” Zdonich said.
Quillman and Council member Michael Turk said the city could still make improvements in the new Riverwalk Homes.
Noting that the Holsten redevelopment plans would reduce density in the complex, Turk said, “That’s a big thing. And, another thing is it’s going to be managed differently than it was before.”