$25.7 million public housing renovation breaks ground


Hal Jin/The Daily Northwestern

City, county, state and national officials take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for two Evanston housing project apartments. The units, located at 1900 Sherman Ave. and 2300 Noyes Court, are undergoing a $25.7 million renovation in order to better house low-income senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Hal Jin, Reporter

Government officials celebrated Wednesday the groundbreaking of the $25.7 million renovation of two apartment housing projects in Evanston.

A collaboration between local and national government made the renovation possible.

The two apartments undergoing construction are the Jane R. Perlman Apartments, 1900 Sherman Ave., and Victor Walchirk Apartments, 2300 Noyes Court. The apartments provide housing for low-income senior citizens and residents with disabilities. The project is managed by Evanston Senior Redevelopment, LLC, an affiliate corporation of the Housing Authority of Cook County. HACC manages and owns more than 2,000 public housing units in Cook County, many dating back to the 1950s.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Evanston Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) gave remarks at the Perlman Apartments in front of an audience of about 70. Other officials in attendance included HACC executive director Richard Monocchio, Illinois Housing Development Authority assistant director Christine Moran, state Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois). Many apartment residents attended the celebration, along with representatives from the organizations involved.

“It’s important to all of Evanston that we provide our seniors with the best possible place to live,” Tisdahl said. “This project proves that government works.”

Aside from upgrades, which will include work on cabinets, roofs, appliances and facades, the renovation will also incorporate special features tailored to the residents of the apartments, some of whom have disabilities.

Monocchio told The Daily he made sure the residents were involved in the designing process from the start. He included in the plans designs that were suggested by residents, such as walk-in bathtubs.

“If you don’t include the residents, it’s not going to work,” Monocchio said. “People had a say in what their building looked like, a sense of ownership.”

The renovation project is the first in Cook County to use the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration program. The federal program permits public housing agencies to use private debt to fund updates to low-income housing units, according to a news release from Preckwinkle’s office. IDHA is contributing $15 million in equity through tax credits, and the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development will supply more than $3.5 million in federal HOME Investment Partnerships program funds.

“The Rental Assistance Demonstration is critical to the future of public housing,” said Monocchio. “It allows us to leverage additional capital, and just as important, puts these buildings on a more solid financial footing.”

Federal spending on public housing has decreased from $4 billion in 1999 to $1.53 billion in 2012, adjusted for inflation, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ website.

“It’s a tragedy that we live in an era of declining resources for public housing,” Biss said. “It’s essential for the quality of life in Evanston.”

HACC has two similar projects planned for next year in Arlington Heights and Skokie, Monocchio said.

“Everything is going accordingly,” said Robert Browner, who has been a resident at Perlman Apartments for six years. “It’s an ongoing project that we’re just getting to the bottom of.”

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