The Joliet City Council is due to make a decision Tuesday that likely will set the future for Riverwalk Homes for the next 20 years.
The council gave little indication at a workshop meeting Monday of what it likely will do.
Officials have, however, decided that Joliet does not have another year to wait as was suggested when the council two weeks ago last considered the topic of what to do with the subsidized housing complex formerly named Evergreen Terrace.
Andrea Keeney, senior development director for Holsten Development, told the council that the city needs to inform the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development if it intends to demolish any of the buildings at Riverwalk Homes.
“If we intend to demolish any of those buildings, we need to make them aware of that now,” Keeney said.
Joliet apparently will be bound for 20 years by whatever decision is made by an Oct. 2 deadline. Keeney said she needs to meet with HUD sooner to get their approval of any redevelopment plans.
“In order to get in front of HUD, we have to have something to present to them,” she told the council.
Holsten is recommending that the city reduce the 356-unit complex to 177 apartments.
Holsten, a co-owner of Riverwalk Homes with the city of Joliet, said the plan would reduce density at the housing complex while still providing revenue to recover $11.4 million by 2024. Holsten has designed plans aimed at recovering a portion of the $15 million the city paid when it acquired what was then Evergreen Terrace after a prolonged legal battle that cost an additional $10 million in legal bills.
Council members gave no clear indication of what course they might take and at times debated whether they should have ever acquired the complex.
“I don’t want to forget why we got into this in the first place, and that was the residents and the surrounding community,” council member Terry Morris said.
Morris said Riverwalk Homes redevelopment would be “a costly investment” but a worthwhile one if it improved life for residents there and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Council member Larry Hug questioned whether city officials ever cared about Evergreen Terrace residents and called for a release of tapes from old executive session meetings in which the matter was discussed.
“This is disingenuous,” Hug said. “This was done for all the wrong reasons.”
Council member Bettye Gavin called on the council to focus on the decision ahead.
“At the end of the day we’re faced with this,” Gavin said. “We better make sure these residents get a decent quality of life.”