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Elgin Council gives split thumbs up to Central Park Tower plan

Artist’s drawings show latest elevations for ElgHousing Authority’s Central Park towers renovatiproject. | Phocourtesy ElgHousing Authority

Artist’s drawings show the latest elevations for the Elgin Housing Authority’s Central Park towers renovation project. | Photo courtesy of Elgin Housing Authority

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Updated: February 11, 2014 6:20AM

ELGIN — The city council Wednesday night moved along zoning changes that will make way for proposed renovations and another building for the Housing Authority of Elgin’s Central Park Towers on State Street.

The vote approving the zoning change was 6-3, with Councilmen Terry Gavin, John Prigge and Toby Shaw casting the “no” votes. In December, the same trio opposed a map amendment and planned development for the project, which had been tabled since October, after some residents complained about parking, building design, density and traffic issues at the site along Route 31.

HAE has held six community meetings since the fall on the approximately $25 million project, and the design for the building has gone through five modifications. The plan has been in the works for more than a year.

Work would be funded by Illinois Housing Development Authority tax credits issued to attract private investors and Department of Housing and Urban Development money. HAE is considering naming the building after Bob Gilliam, the former city councilman who served on the HAE board for 30 years.

The 11-story housing tower for residents 50 and older, at 120 S. State St., has not been renovated since it went up in 1969.

The second building, with a six-story and four-story section, would stand at 132 S. State — the site of a former large, older home that had been split into eight apartments.

That apartment building had seen its share of troubles in recent years. According to information provided by the Elgin Police Department, that address had 41 calls for service in 2011 and 59 calls in 2012, including one for a homicide.

Efficiency units in the older tower would be converted to full one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Most units would be for income-qualifying people, with some units offered at market rate. The new building would include expanded office space for housing authority staff along with a small, resident-operated retail store. The new development and rehabilitation would increase the total number of units on both properties from 158 to 164.

Wednesday night, Prigge said the project would shoehorn the neighborhood, and he suggested the HAE look elsewhere to build, particularly the Eagle Heights subdivision — which is home to Mayor Dave Kaptain.

Gavin said he could have supported the effort if it had been limited to fixing the existing building.

He felt the project as is does not address stressors it will put on the neighborhood and that its costs don’t make economic sense, given they will only add six units of affordable senior housing.

Kaptain noted that the renovations will bring improvements to the lives of 150 people as well as to their families who will be relieved that their parents will have such housing.

“Nobody wants to be a burden,” Kaptain said.

Kaptain also noted that the project will mean 100 union construction jobs, with the economic impact from that affecting another 500 people.

And he noted that, as designed, the work will address existing stormwater retention issues for the neighborhood and for the football field at St. Edward High School nearby.

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