Pilsen and Englewood plan for new, low-income housing

Developers are poised to replace two vacant lots with much-needed housing in Englewood and Pilsen, neighborhoods that have a scarcity of dwellings, residents say.

Casa Maravilla, a senior housing development in Pilsen, and Englewood apartments, a new complex for low-income and public housing residents, were both approved this week by the Chicago Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners.

Local community leaders are excited about new housing in their neighborhood. Jean Carter-Hill, director of Imagine Englewood If..., says she hopes the new apartments at 901 W. 63rd St,. will help people stay in the community.

"I'm so glad we'll have some new housing in the community," says Carter-Hill. "Families have been moved out of this neighborhood for a long time. We need housing here."

The development will create 99 studio apartments, 50 of which will be leased to residents on the public housing voucher waiting list, and the rest which will go to residents making less than 30 percent of the area median income. Englewood Apartments is expected to be completed in January of 2010.

The new apartments will be close to the Green Line Halsted el stop and to the new campus of Kennedy King College, which Carter-Hill says will be a very accessible location.

The project will be constructed by Mercy Housing Lakefront and will include support services, like job training and referral, case management and substance abuse treatment services for tenants.

Debbie Blair, chief of staff for Alderman JoAnn Thompson (D-16) says the combination of social services and housing will be especially helpful to residents.

"There is a grave need in the 16th ward to help the socially challenged to become self-sufficient, and that is what Englewood apartments will do."

Pilsen residents also have a hard time finding decent, affordable places to live, says Guacolda Reyes, deputy director of community development at the Resurrection Project, the organization that's constructing Casa Maravilla. She says the development, which will create 73 units of affordable senior housing in Pilsen, is a great accomplishment for the community.

"We are taking a parcel of land that was vacant and making it into an asset for the community," says Reyes, who expects the project to take a couple of years to complete.

Casa Maravilla, set to be built at 2021 S. Morgan, will be adjacent to another Resurrection Project development, Casa Marelos, a 45 unit family affordable housing complex expected to be completed next summer. Both developments are right next to Alivio Medical Center, a bilingual medical facility that provides care to the uninsured and underinsured, Reyes says.

The organization is waiting until construction is complete to start leasing units at either location, Reyes says, but people who are interested can put their name on a list through the Resurrection Project.

Both developments will be built according to "green" building standards. Englewood apartments will be LEED certified and have a green roof, high-efficiency insulation, energy-efficient appliances and fixtures, rain gardens and native landscape.

Casa Maravilla will also incorporate various green elements into the design including: water permeable paving, highly efficient mechanical systems, and green roofing and insulation.

Both developments will feature geothermal heating and cooling systems, which use pumps buried in the ground to heat or cool the air.

Mayor Daley introduced ordinances approving the financing of both developments at the November city council meeting. Both proposals were referred to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate and could be considered as soon as Monday, Dec. 15.