A group of local affordable housing advocates gathered at Wilmette Village Hall Tuesday night, urging officials to require a developer of upscale apartments to ensure that at least 15 percent of the units are priced for low- to moderate-income residents.
The affordable housing group’s pleas were delivered shortly before the Wilmette Village Board voted unanimously to approve a $4.1 million contract with M & R Development, which plans to build a six-story mixed-use project at 611 Green Bay Road featuring an estimated 94 luxury apartments on the upper floors, with retail space on the first level.
As part of the deal, the developer has agreed to donate $80,000 to the village’s housing assistance fund for low-income senior citizens and those with disabilities, money that officials said will support the program for roughly two additional years.
The village’s taxpayer funded housing assistance program was recently eliminated due to budget cuts, and officials said the program will be replaced by a nonprofit organization tasked with heading up the effort.
But Wilmette resident Gail Schechter, the executive director of the Winnetka-based nonprofit Open Communities, said that while the donation from the developer is appreciated, the village is in dire need of affordable rental housing to accommodate elderly, disabled and low- to moderate-income residents.
“We’re thrilled about the donation to the housing assistance program, which means the village hears us and cares about this program,” said Schechter. “It’s a really good gesture that helps with the income side of the need for affordable housing. But now, we need something on the bricks and mortar, unit side.”
The affordable housing advocates are also hoping the developer will consider making some of the apartments ADA accessible for residents with disabilities, Schechter said.
Village President Bob Bielinski said affordable housing advocates like Schechter and fellow members of the advocacy group Wilmette Cares are welcome to share their views about the new development at several hearings that will be held prior to the start of construction.
Bielinski said the property was purchased by the village in 2011 for $3.6 million as part of the settlement of a lawsuit after a previous developer was unable to go through with a proposed project because of recession-related economic hardships.
“I’m very excited about this,” said Bielinski, adding that the developer’s proposal is a perfect fit for the village’s master plan, which calls for transit-oriented housing walking distance from the village’s Metra station and downtown shops and restaurants. “It’s a great night getting this done … but it will be more fun when we break ground on the project.”
Still, Schechter said despite her gratitude for the developer’s $80,000 donation to the village’s housing assistance program, she will continue to push for some of the planned apartments to be units that are both affordable and accessible.
“There still will be a lot of meetings, and we’re looking at being a part of it,” Schechter said.
With M & R Development aiming for a mid-2015 groundbreaking on the project, officials said construction would be preceded by multiple public hearings to be held over six to nine months. The hearings will allow residents and business owners to weigh in on the plan.
The project will feature studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom residences, officials said.
The building is also expected to offer amenities such a fitness center, cyber cafe and terrace for entertaining.
Copyright © 2014, Chicago Tribune
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Get involved to hold Wilmette accountable to its promise in its Comprehensive Plan, Affordable Housing Plan, and Village Center Master Plan to include affordable housing in new downtown multi-family developments. We need to advocate that a portion of the approximately 94 rentals be targeted to the low- and moderate-income market, and that all units be fully accessible.
Tell the Village Board that you thank them for negotiating the $80,000 HAP contribution, and you want them to sit with the developers at the drawing board to make at least 15% of all new units affordable, per the Wilmette Affordable Housing Plan, and all the units accessible. You can do that in several ways:
- Write to the Village President Bob Bielinski and the Village trustees. Here are the email addresses: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send them a letter: Wilmette Village Board, 1200 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091.
- Join Wilmette Cares to multiply your voices: Contact Lorelei McClure at email@example.com for more information!
If you are a congregation or community group, host a forum with Wilmette Cares about housing needs and housing options in Wilmette. Contact Lorelei McClure, chair of Wilmette Cares, firstname.lastname@example.org.