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CHICAGO-One of the first redevelopments of a former Chicago Housing Authority public housing project is headed to the city council with a favorable plan commission recommendation. Construction of 204-unit, 11-building project in the 2600 block of S. Martin Luther King Dr. could begin in January 2002, with completion in mid-2003.

The $26-million South Park Plaza development would include a 60- to 65-year land lease with the CHA, first and second mortgages totaling $16.4 million as well as a $500,000 federal grant, says Glenview, IL-based affordable housing consultant Thomas F. Monico. In addition, the development team will lease the 9-acre site between two hospitals – Mercy and Michael Reese — from the CHA for 65 years.

While the Woodlawn Community Development Corp. is the general partner in the project, the National Equity Fund may be enlisted as a limited partner, says attorney Elvin Charity, providing the development group with low-income tax credits.

“It’s obviously a very complex transaction from a financial standpoint, but also from a community standpoint,” Charity says.

A precursor to the deal included moving CHA families from the South Commons housing project to other units in the area.

“I’ve never seen a project in this community move so smoothly,” says 2nd Ward Alderman Madeline L. Haithcock. “I’m so proud the way everybody was placed.”

Next comes demolition of 13 buildings containing 326 CHA units, some of them now occupied by squatters.

“We’re very excited about moving forward,” says CHA chief of development Carl Byrd. “We plan to move forward diligently and start demolition as soon as we can.”

While 25% of the units would be subsidized through the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Housing Choice Voucher program, formerly known as Section 8, the remaining units will go to families earning no more than 60% of the area’s median income. Those receiving Section 8 assistance would not be concentrated in any one of the 11 buildings – two of them 44-unit, four-story structures while the remaining units would be spread across nine two-story buildings.

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