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Local News

Joliet makes decision on Riverwalk Homes

City looks to demolish at least half of former Evergreen Terrace units

Joliet will move ahead with a plan to demolish at least half of the apartments at Riverwalk Homes.

The plan, which has yet to be nailed down, still needs the consent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which subsidizes rents at the low-income housing complex.

The City Council won’t vote until Sept. 4 on what it wants to do with the apartment complex that was called Evergreen Terrace until Joliet took ownership a year ago.

But the council Tuesday agreed to approach HUD with a proposal to retain somewhere between 115 and 177 apartments at Riverwalk Homes.

The complex on Broadway Street now has 356 units. But reducing housing density on the site has been one of the objects of the takeover since the city launched a condemnation lawsuit in 2005 against the former private owners of Evergreen Terrace.

But even as late as Tuesday, council members appeared unsure of what course to take next as representatives from Holsten Development asked for a decision before meeting with HUD in the next two weeks.

“I think there are nine different opinions, but we do need to give some direction to them,” Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said as he urged the council to come to a consensus.

The consensus combines a proposal from Joliet resident Damon Zdunich, who presented a plan that was finalized Tuesday for 115 apartments, with a proposal first presented June 4 for 177 apartments – one of five proposals suggested by Holsten.

The City Council still is trying to leave some options open, and Holsten representatives said they will pursue some leeway from HUD.

But a couple of council members favored the plan for 177 apartments, which would include moderate rehabilitation of the apartments with new kitchens and bathrooms. The plan for 115 apartments maintains them as they are now.

“To me, the 177 [apartments] sounds to me that we are thinking about the residents and we are trying to rehab the place,” council member Terry Morris said.

The 177-apartment plan “at least fixes things up,” council member Bettye Gavin said. “We’ll give the residents there at least an opportunity to improve their quality of life.”

Other council members appeared to favor reducing the number of apartments to 115, which is the minimum allowed in a settlement reached with HUD during the course of the Evergreen Terrace litigation.

No timetable was set for demolition.

Council member Jan Quillman repeatedly asked if the city could reduce the number to 115 and move the residents to scattered housing around the city.

Andrea Keeney, senior development manager with Holsten, said the settlement agreement allows it, but said it would be an expensive proposition because the city would have to acquire land and build new housing.

Both plans also provide timelines for the city recouping $11.4 million of the $15 million spent to acquire Evergreen Terrace, a price set by a federal jury after Joliet won the condemnation lawsuit.

The Holsten plan would recover the money by 2034. Zdunich’s proposal would recover the money by 2038.

Peter Holsten, chief executive of Holsten Development, suggested that the city not think only of the finances of the proposals.

“I’d like the council to focus on the residents,” Holsten said. “There’s been a lot of focus on finances, but not a lot of focus on the residents.”

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