O'Dekirk demands Evergreen Terrace plan be set

Karen Sorensen | 9/4/2014, 4 p.m.
The councilman and mayor candidate says it's Mayor Tom Giarrante's fault that no one is clear on will happen should ...
Evergreen Terrace Times Weekly file photo


Robert O'Dekirk


Thomas Giarrante

The Joliet City Council has no plan for what will happen to the Evergreen Terrace should the city win its eminent domain lawsuit, city councilman and mayoral candidate Bob O'Dekirk said Thursday.

O'Dekirk's challenge comes one day after a woman was murdered in one of Evergreen's laundry rooms, which he said raises the concern of city liability should Joliet become owner of the huge apartment complex, which has been crime-plagued for many years.

"It's a legitimate question: What are we going to do with it?" O'Dekirk said. "We aren't getting any answers."

The initial concept was to tear down the Broadway Street buildings, he said, but somewhere along the line the vision morphed into one in which the city would retain ownership, reduce the number of units, create amenities such as a residents' park and community center, and bring in a private firm to manage the buildings. The council hired Holsten Real Estate Development in 2012 to guide the process, should the city win its suit.

O'Dekirk said the current council has never really had a discussion to see where members stand in terms of tearing the buildings down vs. rehabbing them for lower density. He said his repeated requests to see a copy of the study done on the issue dating back to 2006 or 2007 have not been addressed.

The person at fault, he said, is Mayor Tom Giarrante, who was a council member when the process to condemn Evergreen began and has failed to take a leadership role in terms of creating a concrete plan for what will happen next.

"It's not enough to say, 'We won the lawsuit,'" O'Dekirk said in a statement. "The city needs to be realistic on what can be done at that property and, more importantly, how much will it cost and how will we pay for it."

Giarrante took umbrage at O'Dekirk's charges, accusing his mayoral opponent of using the recent murder to stir up a non-issue and maintaining that the demand for a concrete plan is premature given that the city has not even won its lawsuit yet, let alone negotiated a purchase price.

Crime at the complex is an issue, which is why the city condemnation suit's important, Giarrante said, but ownership will not create additional legal liability for the city.

"Any good lawyer should know the city of Joliet will not be financially responsible for crime that occurs at Evergreen Terrace," Giarrante said in a statement responding to O'Dekirk's comments.

"As a past member of the Joliet Police Department, Mr. O’Dekirk should know firsthand the problems that have and continue to occur at Evergreen Terrace. The crime report that was provided to the city by Chief (Brian) Benton in March of this year showed the crime rate per capita at Evergreen Terrace is more than four times the city-wide total per capita."

When the city acquires the site, "all stakeholders will be involved in our decisions concerning moving forward with Evergreen."

O'Dekirk said he'd like to be clear on the plans before that point.

If the city's going to tear the buildings down, how much is it going to cost, how will it funded, how will the residents be relocated, and are there other factors, such asbestos, that must be considered, he asked.

If the city's going to become the landlord, which O'Dekirk is opposed to, how many units will be needed to produce enough income to support the complex and where will the money come from to renovate the buildings and build the proposed amenities?

“The whole purpose of the lawsuit is to tear the buildings down," O'Dekirk said in his statement. "If that is no longer the direction the city is going to take, Mayor Giarrante needs to disclose this to the city council and the citizens."

Contact Karen Sorensen at Karen@TheTimesWeekly.com.