A new story is in the making for Chicago’s North Side, where two affordable housing developments for seniors co-located with public libraries have been created.
As part of a public-private partnership with the city of Chicago, Chicago Housing Authority (CHA), and Chicago Public Library, Evergreen Real Estate Group developed the 44-unit Northtown Apartments for low-income seniors with the Northtown Branch Library in the West Ridge neighborhood and the 44-unit Independence Apartments, also for low-income seniors, with the Independence Branch Library in the Irving Park neighborhood.
“I think libraries are, and have been for some time, the key community centers for a lot of different types of activities, particularly intergenerational activities,” says David Block, director of development at Chicago-based Evergreen Real Estate Group. “What’s been particularly gratifying for us is seeing the enthusiasm for the libraries among folks in the neighborhoods. If you go into either of them on a Saturday, each is absolutely packed with families.”
The co-located projects stemmed from a city design contest to find the most innovative ideas for the co-located housing and libraries.
“Design has been a key focus of these projects from day one,” says Block.
Designed by John Ronan Architects, the Independence Branch Library is two stories with an open floor plan with large expanses of natural light. The apartments, which are located above the library, include brightly colored insert balconies.
The Northtown Branch Library, designed by Perkins+Will, includes an interior courtyard and a large mural with iconic images from the West Ridge neighborhood by local artist Chris Silva.
“The real amenity that makes the buildings very special is fantastic outdoor deck space in both buildings,” says Block, adding that both housing developments also feature fitness rooms, lounge areas, and laundry rooms.
Each of the developments include 30 units with project-based vouchers for CHA residents and 14 low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) units. Residents are starting to move into the Northtown Apartments this week, while the Independence Apartments will be completed in June.
"CHA is focused on providing housing and other opportunities that enhance the lives of our residents while helping to build strong, vibrant neighborhoods. Under the leadership of mayor Rahm Emanuel, this innovative partnership with Chicago Public Library will provide residents of all ages with quality housing options and a community anchor of world-class design that will serve them for years to come," says CHA CEO Eugene E. Jones Jr. "These developments demonstrate that we are keeping our promise to continue the development at our mixed-income sites and working to bring CHA investment to new communities."
Block says each project cost approximately $34 million, with the library component costing about $11 million. The Chicago Department of Planning and Development provided LIHTCs with CREA as the syndicator on both deals. Both developments received first mortgages from CIBC Bank and significant funds from CHA. The Illinois Housing Development Authority also provided HOME funds for the Northtown project.
In addition to the Northtown and Independence developments, developer Related Midwest and architect Skidmore, Owings & Merrillhave created the 73-unit, mixed-income Taylor Street Apartments and Little Italy Branch development in Chicago's Near West Side neighborhood.The library branch opened in January, and residents have started to move in to the new apartments.