City gets $20 million for housing revitalization

The city received a $20 million dollar federal grant to continue redevelopment of the Park Boulevard, a mixed-income housing community in Bronzeville.

The grant was announced today at a press conference with the mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steven Preston. The money is a part of the federal government’s HOPE VI revitalization program.

Mayor Richard M. Daley said the Park Boulevard is an example of how the city is positively transforming public housing.

“Our goal is to transform the old, isolated developments into vital communities where economically self-sufficient residents of mixed income levels live together,” Daley says.

Construction on the Park Boulevard began in December of 2006, replacing Stateway Gardens, a complex of public housing high rises demolished in 2007. The development will happen in three phases, with around 1,300 total units when the complex is completed.

About a third of those will be public housing units.

Phase one of the development is now underway, with 159 units nearly ready for residents, and should be completed by 2010.

Rhonda Thomas, 43, says she’d love to move into a unit at Park Boulevard. She currently lives in Lawndale Gardens, a public housing development on the city’s West side, but is looking for a new place because of violence at Lawndale Gardens.

“I wouldn’t mind. It is so gorgeous over here,” Thomas says.

Thomas has a friend who lives in the new complex. She likes the low-rise style of the Park Boulevard, a common feature of mixed-income housing.

“Maybe by not being the high rises, you know, they’ll value what they have over here and take care of it,” Thomas says.

She also says she doesn’t think there are enough public housing units available. It will likely be several months before she is able to move into a new home.

The Stateway Gardens complex had 1,664 units, with about 689 families living there. Overall, the three phases of development will create 439 total public housing units. Some Stateway Gardens residents have moved other public housing projects, while some have taken Section 8 vouchers, and others have left the system entirely.

The Chicago Housing Authority is committed to finding permanent housing for all the former residents, says agency spokesperson Matt Aguilar.

The Park Boulevard will be a mix of single-family homes, condos, duplexes and town homes. According to sales manager Norma Baskin, more than 100 people currently live there.

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