Chicago Affordable Apartments Win Neighborhood Development Awards

Chicago--The 17th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards recognized two North Side Chicago multifamily developments, one for affordable housing, the other for for-profit development.

Lobby of the Hollywood House

Chicago–The 17th annual Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards, which were held this week, recognized two North Side Chicago multifamily developments with separate awards, one for affordable housing, the other for for-profit development. The Heartland Housing for Hollywood House won the Polk Bros. Foundation Affordable Rental Housing Preservation Award (including a prize of $15,000), while the Holsten Real Estate Development Corporation for Wilson Yard was named Outstanding For-Profit Neighborhood Real Estate Project.

The awards were created in the mid-1990s by LISC/Chicago, an organization that raises capital–loans, equity and grants–to invest in specific neighborhood development projects and programs, and helps establish networks of relationships that lead to the redevelopment of neighborhoods. Other awards given this week recognized outstanding neighborhood nonprofit real estate developments; architectural excellence; leadership in community development; and other achievements.

“The awards celebrate projects that go the extra mile to meet the needs of both residents and the community as a whole,” Joel Bookman, co-executive director, LISC/Chicago, tells MHN. “Both Hollywood House and Wilson Yard offer affordable housing in communities where gentrification and other forces can price out long-time neighborhood residents. In so doing, they’ve provided great homes for working families and for seniors and contributed to the urban vibrancy of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The Heartland Housing for Hollywood House project began with a home for seniors in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, Hollywood House, which had numerous code violations and deteriorating physical conditions. It might have been a prime candidate for a gut rehab and conversion to condos, but Heartland Housing Inc. found a way to work with the building’s owner, creatively using Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits to negotiate a below-market acquisition price.

Heartland’s efforts meant that 90 percent of the units in the 13-story, 197-unit building were preserved as affordable housing, and 127 units are now targeted to seniors earning 60 percent or less of Chicago median income. Even more strikingly, the developer found a way to repair and renovate the building without displacing its current residents.

The Wilson Yard development addressed three major issues facing the Uptown neighborhood: affordable housing, retail and transportation. The project, 178 residential units with complementary retail components, has transformed a burned-out and long-vacant Chicago Transit Authority property into a mixed-use complex that offers affordable housing for seniors and families as well as a Target store, an Aldi grocery and other retail.

According to the award citation, its backers managed to secure $40 million in financing to make it all happen in the fall of 2008, at the height of the international economic crisis and credit crunch. The developers also overcame other challenges in seeing the project through–the configuration of the site itself, for example: A single, massive building with structural elements to be shared by all four entities going into it meant that financing for all aspects of the project had to be secured simultaneously before construction could begin, and that was done.