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Local News

Joliet housing authority gets approval for Des Plaines Gardens demolition

JOLIET – The Housing Authority of Joliet can move forward on the Des Plaines Gardens housing project after receiving a draft letter approving demolition from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HAJ Chief Executive Officer Michael Simelton announced the news at Thursday’s city of Joliet Housing Authority Liaison Committee meeting.

“Ideally, we would like to see [demolition begin] during the winter months,” Simelton said.

Joliet City Council members Terry Morris, Bettye Gavin and Jim McFarland, members of the committee, were excited about the prospect of moving forward on the project.

“This is big,” Gavin said.

HAJ has been pushing for redevelopment of the 122-unit housing project for years. Des Plaines Gardens was built from 1954 to 1956, and now is considered by HAJ to be functionally obsolete.

“Not only are we trying to give these individuals better subsidized housing, but they’re living in, in my opinion, substandard conditions,” McFarland said.

The development, at 367 S. Des Plaines St., will be replaced by a new housing project called “Water’s Edge,” consisting of 68 single-family and townhome rental units.

The next step after approval for demolition is for HAJ to convince all the tenants to move out before starting the redevelopment process.

Residents soon will be given 180-day prior notice, which includes Section 8 vouchers for approved housing near and far. They also will have the right of first refusal on the new housing.

Morris suggested that the winter timeline was “aggressive” and questioned if residents will move out by then.

Simelton said he is hopeful it will happen, noting that half the residents, when asked, said they don’t want to come back and that a relocation team has been talking to residents about the redevelopment plans.

“This group has been communicating with our residents with anticipation of this coming,” Simelton said. “It was a gutsy move because we didn’t know [if funding or approval would come through].”

HAJ Chief Development and Operations Officer John Chow said if demolition occurs on schedule, construction could start on the new development in late summer next year.

HAJ recently received authorization for a $1.2 million-a-year, 10-year allocation for low-income housing tax credits through the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

In addition to the tax credits, a $5 million construction loan and HAJ funds will help cover the $18.6 million project.

HAJ will not ask the city for additional funding, Simelton said.

“We’re probably going to ask you to waive some fees, like connection fees and stuff like that,” Simelton said to the council members.

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