Joliet plans for ownership of Evergreen Terrace
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 10:48PM
While a court battle continues, the Joliet City Council on Monday hired a firm to oversee the rehabilitation of the Evergreen Terrace in the 300 block of North Broadway should the city gain control of the housing complex. | file photo
Updated: December 13, 2012 6:05AM
JOLIET — The city still is at least a couple of months away from knowing whether it will get ownership of Evergreen Terrace, but now it has a consultant to help plan how to run the housing complex.
The city council last week agreed to hire Holsten Chicago, a company that also will manage and redevelop Evergreen Terrace if it becomes the property of the city.
Joliet is fighting in federal court to acquire the site, not only with the owners of Evergreen Terrace but also the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which subsidizes the 356-apartment complex to provide low-income housing.
“The courts are looking to see if we are prepared, if this if for real, if we are going to do the right thing,” Councilman Don Fisher said in discussion that preceded a unanimous vote to hire Holsten. “This is a bold step and an answer to that question.”
Holsten was the developer in a project that converted part of the Cabrini-Green public housing complex in Chicago to townhomes and condominiums, some of which are occupied by former Cabrini-Green residents.
Company founder Peter Holsten told the council that his company provides services to low-income residents, including employment counseling, in addition to housing.
“Our primary mission is to help stabilize communities and work with people of various incomes to help them improve their own lives,” Holsten said.
Joliet is arguing in court that the owners of Evergreen Terrace have allowed the property to deteriorate and failed to provide safe living conditions. The city also contends the complex on Broadway Street has too many apartments in too little space and should be redeveloped.
Evergreen Terrace’s owners and HUD contend that the city’s attempt to take over Evergreen Terrace violates the federal fair housing law.
Councilman Robert O’Dekirk questioned how much the redevelopment project would cost the city, particularly if Joliet remains the owner for the next 20 to 30 years.
City Attorney Jeff Plyman said Evergreen Terrace can be acquired through financing that would be repaid with the revenue generated by the subsidized apartment rents.
“We’re not looking to obligate the general Joliet taxpayer to any part of this,” Plyman said.
He said the federal trial in Chicago likely is to last into January. Whatever the decision on the property, it could be appealed — meaning there still could be several months or more than a year of legal wrangling in the condemnation case that started in 2005.
Without an appeal, a trial on what price the city should pay the owners for the complex could be held in the spring, Plyman said.
In the meantime, Holsten Chicago will get $50,000 in a contract paid in monthly installments. If the city loses its case, Plyman said, the contract can be stopped at that point.