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CHICAGO-A proposed $13-million multifamily building at the southwest corner of 38th Street and King Drive might have been rejected by the plan commission had it not been for its intended residents. The nonprofit South Park Affordable Housing and Services’ 120-unit building will serve senior citizens who will have most of their rent paid by Medicare.

The eight-story building is similar to a structure across 38th Street, but out of character with the vintage single- and multifamily buildings that line King Drive, part of the city’s boulevard system, at least two plan commissioners say. Nonetheless, even they voted late last week to recommend the project to the city council for approval.

“In 20 years, architectural design has progressed,” says plan commission member and architect Linda Searl. The high-rise on the northwest corner of 38th Street and King Drive was constructed in the early 1980s.

“We need to be careful when we’re building on the city’s boulevards,” adds John Nelson. “If that tower weren’t across the street to begin with, I’d be inclined to vote against it.”

Attorney Bernard Citron says plans for the building were revised as a result of lengthy discussions with the department of planning and development. “We’re at the end of a three-year process to get to this point,” Citron says. “We’ve stretched these dollars as much as we can.”

Had the building been targeted for market-rate tenants, a design more in character with the King Drive boulevard might have worked, suggests Citron and Rev. E.R. Williams Jr., pastor of the South Park Baptist Church. “If we had an unlimited budget, or if this were a private sector project, we could do much, much more,” Williams says. “But we’re not in that arena.”

Williams’ church is a half-block north of the project site. “I’m not ashamed of it,” he says of the renderings. “It fits in our community.”

Williams tells GlobeSt.com he hopes construction begins this fall, with occupancy beginning in late 2004.

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