Wednesday, June 14, 2006

From eyesores to Oakwood Shores

An interesting Sun-Times article about the changing near south side. Where infamous public housing high rises once stood are a new experiment in which families of different incomes are mixed in housing developments. Check out the story of a Hyde Park engineer who is about to partake in this experiment...

"We could have bought in the suburbs or in so-called better neighborhoods but we wanted to do it here, where we could be role models," Rodney Neely, a 54-year-old Hyde Park engineer said as he showed off his nearly finished row house on 39th Street near the lake.

When the Chicago Housing Authority launched its ambitious plan in 2000 to replace its much-maligned, largely high-rise projects with mixed-income developments, many wondered if enough people would sign up to live next to CHA families.

At Oakwood Shores, which is replacing the CHA's notorious Ida B. Wells and Madden Park Homes in the Oakland neighborhood, the experiment appears to be working.
What about the demand...
The first buyers -- paying as much as $535,000 -- move in next month, and the rentals have been snapped up. The wait for an affordable rental is as long as two years and the full-price rentals are spoken for before construction finishes. The developer already has raised rents because of high demand.

"On first blush, personal observation and the numbers indicate that the product is attractive to a diverse population and the market is healthy," said Helen Dunlap, a former president of ShoreBank Development Corp.

Families are flocking to Oakwood, buyers and renters say, because of price, access to downtown and the lake, as well as its location in a gentrifying neighborhood.
Here's the plan...

The redeveloped streets, east of Langley, are now lined with elegant homes and six-flats outfitted with arched doorways and decorative brickwork. The sidewalks are scuff-free, the lawns are manicured and antique lampposts light up a peaceful neighborhood.

A few blocks west, dilapidated and boarded-up eyesores still house public housing families. Large swaths of dirt stand in for grassy fields and addicts still congregate in a nearby park.

Over 10 years, the entire 94-acre parcel is to be redeveloped with 3,000 new units split evenly among working-class residents, public housing families and those who can pay market rate.

The first rental phase is nearly done, with 209 families in place. The first 44 for-sale units are almost done, and 39 are sold, including the highest-priced ones -- eight $535,000 single family homes.

A total of 130 for-sale units are due next summer, with 59 already sold, said Joe Williams, president of Granite Development, which is developing Oakwood with MB Real Estate and the Community Builders. Ujima, a community group, also is involved. The second phase includes land adjacent to what remains of Wells. That will come down eventually, but in the meantime the units may be a harder sell than those in phase one, outside developers said.


Mixing people unaccustomed to living together can be treacherous, but so far the Oakwood community is jelling, several renters said. They cite good management and tough screening rules for public housing tenants, including a work requirement. Just 38 percent of the 400 families screened so far are eligible for Oakwood. They are being offered help in finding work and other assistance by the Community Builders.

Finally let's just close that this won't start off perfectly at least not yet...

But Brenda Taylor said she and a few others had to move from one building to another because of a noisy CHA tenant. She's also bothered by teens gathering in her parking lot at night: "Even though the place is nice, eventually it'll slip back and have some of the problems of before, when it was all public housing."
To make this a success would have to take work on the part of the residents first and foremost and at least the article alludes to that.

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