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What’s next after Lawrence House sale

Sun, Sep 15, 2013

Brian Packard and StreetWise vendor James Metzgar have spent five years at Lawrence House on a resident committee trying to improve its condition despite building code violations, a heating shutoff, bed bugs, poor ventilation and even fires in individual units.

Since the August 5 sale of the building at 1020 W. Lawrence Ave. to Cedar Street Co., for redevelopment as the flagship of its eight FLATS Chicago properties, both Packard and Metzgar worry about where they can find replacement affordable housing.

“Most of the people in the building are on Social Security and we don’t have a lot of money, so we’re all trying to find everyone a place that they can afford without higher rent,” Packard said. “People don’t want to move on the South Side, they want to stay up here because this is where some family and friends are and they’ve made a home.”

Officials with ONE Northside say the loss of 372 affordable units at Lawrence House is part of a trend on the North Side. Including other single room hotels sold to developers– the Abbott, the Chateau and the Norman House — they see a loss of 881 units in Lakeview, Uptown and Rogers Park.

Lawrence House sold for $7.5 million as a foreclosure in a FDIC loss share arrangement. Prices will start at $800 for studios and leasing is planned for Fall 2015, according to prepared material.
However, Jay Michael, chief creative officer and managing partner of Cedar Street Co. said in a telephone interview that no deadline had been set for moving tenants out or for construction. “We’re trying to build rapport, we want them to know we are there to offer a resource, we are not just the new developers.”

Michael said that affordable housing set asides, financial help and a long transition period were ideas pushed in the media by ONE Northside, whose predecessor organization picketed his home earlier this year. “It will be the last time we speak until they make a formal apology.”

Just the same, Michael said, “Our goal is to work in a way that’s meaningful to everybody but that means everyone has to have the ability to compromise. This is a unique situation because we are not an affordable housing developer. If it becomes a demand, we are in a tougher place. We are not actually able to sit down with tenants, say ‘what are your concerns?’”

Michael said FLATS Chicago will work “case by case, actually pretty strategically,” to help Lawrence House tenants fill out applications, find housing and possibly even move. “That office will have four people trying to find housing, not leasing agents but social service workers, experts in the world of social justice.” Sherri Kranz, who has three decades of experience in Edgewater, heads this operation.

Ald. James Cappleman (46th ward) had no input into the sale, because there was no request for government money such as tax increment financing (TIF) or a zoning change, both of which require 20 percent affordable housing set-asides, said Tressa Feher, chief of staff. Feher said the alderman had approached two other affordable housing developers about acquiring the troubled building. Rehab costs and requirements that come with layers of financing put it out of their reach.

By Cindy Ji
StreetWise Editorial Intern

– Josh Kahn contributing

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