Federal trial over Joliet’s Evergreen Terrace starting
By Bob Okon firstname.lastname@example.org September 26, 2012 12:40PM
A view of the Evergreen Terrace housing complex Friday, Sept. 30, 2011, in the 300 block of N. Broadway St. in Joliet. HUD is suing Joliet over its condemnation attempt. File photo | Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 29, 2012 6:26AM
JOLIET — The Evergreen Terrace case goes to trial Thursday.
A federal trial challenging the city of Joliet’s motives for trying to condemn the 356-unit, low-income housing project is expected to last for weeks.
If Evergreen Terrace owners are successful, they will stop the city’s condemnation attempt. If the city wins, a second trial is expected to begin in December on the condemnation case, which also is in federal court.
“This is the whole enchilada,” Thomas Hecht, an attorney for Evergreen Terrace owners, said Wednesday.
Joliet first filed a lawsuit for condemnation in 2005. The pre-trial legal battle has run for years, going as far as the U.S. Supreme Court, with the city so far winning its argument that it has a right to condemn the apartment complex located on Broadway.
But Evergreen Terrace owners have been joined by the federal government in countering that the city’s efforts to take over Evergreen Terrace, inhabited primarily by low-income African-Americans, is discriminatory.
The city contends that Evergreen Terrace has been mismanaged, leaving residents exposed to crime and poor living conditions.
The complex is privately owned but subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which is a defendant in the city’s condemnation case and has joined Evergreen Terrace owners in challenging the city’s motives. A group of Evergreen Terrace residents also have joined the case on ownership’s side.
Hecht said Evergreen Terrace owners and co-defendants plan to show that the city’s motive is “to remove low-income African-Americans from Joliet.”
“We will demonstrate that Joliet has violated the Fair Housing Act,” he said.
City officials say they will manage Evergreen Terrace under HUD rules and only redevelop the project if plans are approved by the federal housing agency.
“The city has a strong case,” Joliet City Attorney Jeff Plyman said. “We have the facts, the records, and the videos to show how the property has been improperly managed for years.”
The case is being heard in federal court in Chicago before U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle.