JOLIET – A federal jury on Tuesday set the price for Evergreen Terrace at about $15.08 million, close to what the city said it was worth but not enough to put an end to the 10-year legal battle over the low-income housing complex.
Evergreen Terrace has 30 days to appeal. And several City Council members are not convinced yet that Joliet should move ahead with the acquisition.
"I'm very excited about it. I think it's a win for Joliet," Councilwoman Jan Quillman said about the jury verdict. But Quillman did not commit to voting for an eventual acquisition.
"We've come this far. We just have to see where we go from here," Quillman said.
The price is less than what some council members expected. There were predictions that a jury might split the wide gap between city and Evergreen Terrace appraisals for the complex and come closer to the middle.
Evergreen Terrace valued the 156-apartment complex at $22.3 million. Joliet attorneys asked the jury for a price of $14.3 million.
The 12-member jury set the price at $15,077,406 after about three hours of deliberation. Evidence in the case consisted chiefly of testimony from two appraisers – one from each side.
"Definitely it's a favorable price," Councilman John Gerl said after hearing of the verdict.
But Gerl said it was up to Holsten Development, the company hired by Joliet to plan redevelopment for Evergreen Terrace, to provide a plan to finance the acquisition.
"At that point, the council will make a decision," he said.
Mayor Tom Giarrante and three council members said Tuesday they believed the city should move forward with acquisition.
Calling the price "much less than we anticipated," Giarrante said, "I am in favor of taking it over."
Also saying they were in favor of acquisition were council members Bettye Gavin, Terry Morris and Michael Turk.
Councilman Bob O'Dekirk, one of two other mayoral candidates in the April 7 election, said the price is "in the ballpark" of what he expected. But O'Dekirk said he still wants to see a plan for "how this can be done and how Joliet can pay for it going forward."
Council members Larry Hug and Jim McFarland said they needed to see a financial plan before deciding.
"I guess it's something to celebrate," Hug said of the verdict. "But we may have been awarded something we can't afford."
The city's attorney may have given an idea of the costs of owning Evergreen Terrace when making closing arguments to the jury Tuesday.
James Figliulo asked the jury to consider a history of disrepair, blight and crime at Evergreen Terrace in asking the jury to consider the costs of owning it before setting the price.
"You cannot have conditions that have been pervasive at this property. You have to maintain the property," Figliulo said.
Joliet won eminent domain over Evergreen Terrace in September when U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle ruled in favor of the city in a condemnation case.
James Benak, an attorney for Evergreen Terrace, said the city undervalued the complex that overlooks the Des Plaines River.
Calling the 10-acre site "a very unique property," Benak told the jury, "It sits on a bluff over the river. You all saw that,"
The jury visited Evergreen Terrace last week and looked over the site for about 50 minutes.
Attorneys for Evergreen Terrace would not say after the verdict whether they intended to appeal the decision or Norgle's ruling in September. Evergreen Terrace owners have previously said they intend to appeal Norgle's ruling.