Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
Chicago–Grand opening ceremonies were held last week for the Rosa Parks Apartments in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago, which besides being affordable housing also has the distinction of earning LEED silver certification. The apartments consist of 94 affordable rental units in eight buildings built on lots that had been vacant for many years.
Sustainable features in multifamily housing are not just for market-rate properties, posits developer Bickerdike Redevelopment Corp. and Pioneer Engineering and Environmental Services, environmental and geotechnical engineering consultant on the project. Affordable housing can share in the greening of real estate, too, provided the funding is available.
In the case of the Rosa Parks project, $9.8 million came through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (that is, the 2008 bailout) and $2.2 million through the Illinois Housing Development Authority and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). Other monies were awarded to the project specifically for its green features, such as $285,000 in energy efficient grants from DCEO.
“The idea of providing affordable housing that’s also environmentally friendly within communities that have witnessed gentrification and rising property values is also a very strategic approach due to the economic incentives available,” Boyd Raveling, vice president at Pioneer, tells MHN.
The development features such components as solar panels, geothermal heating and cooling systems, a vegetated roof and other elements. “The energy-saving features will reap benefits for the residents of Rosa Parks for years to come, including not only lower utility bills but improved indoor air quality and a more aesthetically pleasing landscaping,” notes Raveling.
Raveling further asserts that Bickerdike’s investment in the neighborhood has increased the safety and appearance of the blocks, helping to restore the integrity of the urban landscape and repair the fabric of the community. The apartments have already been recognized in various ways, including the Chicago Association of Realtors’ “Good Neighbor Award” given to developments that “bring a positive impact to the surrounding neighborhood” and the Enterprise Green Communities Award in recognition of its green features.