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HAJ pursues redevelopment of Des Plaines Garden Homes

Development would include mix of single family homes and townhouses

Rex Robinson | 3/31/2014, 3:27 p.m. | Updated on 3/31/2014, 10:03 p.m.
A 112-unit housing project in Joliet could be demolished to make way for a mix of single-family homes and townhouses ...
Joliet City Councilman Terry Morris, 5th District, stands outside the Des Plaines Garden Homes low income housing development. The development is in Morris' district. The Housing Authority of Joliet is considering demolishing the development to make way for single family homes and townhouses. Photo by Rex Robinson

A 112-unit housing project in Joliet could be demolished to make way for a mix of single-family homes and townhouses in the next few years if the Housing Authority of Joliet is successful in obtaining $16 million for the project from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Joliet City Manager Jim Hock, after some debate among city council members during a special meeting held Monday morning, agreed to give HAJ officials a letter which needs to be submitted to the IHDA for the redevelopment of Des Plaines Garden Homes, 367 S. Des Plaines Street.

The HAJ needed the letter from the city right away because Monday was the application deadline for the funding from the IHDA, according to HAJ Chief Executive Officer Michael Simelton.

With the redevelopment also will come a new name for Des Plaines Garden Homes. HAJ would change the name to "Plum Landing."

Hock wanted to get a green light from the city council before drafting the letter, which says the city agrees in principal to the project.

There are some disagreements between the HAJ and Joliet staff members and some members of the city council on the details of the proposed redevelopment plan. Zoning requirements for the 6.9 acre site call for less than 70 units. HAJ's plans call for about 69 units, while the city's staff would like to see about 61 units.

Alfredo Melesio, director of Neighborhood Services for Joliet, Police Chief Brian Benton and other city officials have been meeting with HAJ officials about the redevelopment plans for the past couple of months. Some of the issues they have been trying to work through include water retention as well as proper exits and entryways for emergency vehicles. The goal, according to Melesio is to come up with a plan that will work well for the residents as well as the city.

“A lot of times when we talk about affordable housing we say ‘well, at least they have a roof over their head,’ ” Melesio said. “We only get opportunities to make decisions about what goes into these locations once every 100 years… I think we’re trying to create a neighborhood that the long term stakeholders that are there can be proud of…”

Councilwoman Jan Quillman asked why there was such a rush on HAJ needing the letter from the city. She also asked why the redevelopment plans had not been brought before the Housing Authority of Joliet’s Liaison Committee, a committee of the city council designed to be a conduit between the council and the HAJ board.

"Why are we doing this at the 11th hour?” Quillman asked. “I don’t want some rushed through project and we’re stuck with a bunch of houses that are not quality and people don’t have a nice place to live.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development visited Joliet for an assessment of the HAJ’s low income housing late last year as part of an ongoing recovery agreement between HUD and the HAJ. Simelton said HUD officials deemed the Des Plaines Garden Homes development as “functionally obsolete.”