Aurora City Council Committee Supports Senior Housing at Former Jericho Circle Site – Chicago Tribune

A committee of Aurora City Council has recommended rezoning and a preliminary plan for senior housing on the site of the former Jericho Circle housing complex.

The new Fourteen Forty Nine Senior Estates subdivision would have 70 units in total – 50 of them in 25 one-story duplexes and the other 20 in single-story single-family residences – a clubhouse, on-site management offices , a media center, a fitness club, pickleball courts and an outdoor community space.

Active development for seniors would be limited to residents age 62 or older, with qualifying income of $15,000 to $45,000 per year.

“We wanted to create something transformative for seniors living on low and fixed incomes,” said project promoter Jim Roberts. “For us, what Fourteen Forty Nine represents is empowerment; the empowerment of our property; empowerment of our residents; empowering our legacy.

Council’s Building, Zoning and Economic Development Committee has unanimously recommended the rezoning, from single family to multi-family, and the preliminary plan to the full city council, which will consider it at the April 19 Committee of the Whole meeting.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission also recently recommended the development.

The development would be built on the 12 to 16 acres along Jericho Road in the far west that housed the Jericho Circle housing complex for many years. About 10 years ago, the development was demolished and was long considered a public housing failure by many Aurorans.

This is one of the main reasons why Rick Lawrence, a local businessman who was an alderman at the time Jericho Circle was demolished, told the aldermen on the committee, “I can’t believe we’re here, thinking about it again.

He pointed out that officials from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said that at the time of Jericho Circle’s demolition, “the property is not suitable for any type of housing.”

The property is isolated and has few services nearby, Lawrence said.

“The police and everything else can’t go down there,” he said. “These things will all start with beautiful images, like they did in the 1960s… In 15, 20 years, will the city council be sitting there, who approved of this?”

City and development officials have argued that the specifics of the seniors-only development are so different from Jericho Circle that the problems won’t be there.

“There’s no doubt that Jericho Circle has left a lot of scars in this community,” said city manager Alex Alexandrou. “That’s why we chose to rewrite the story. It’s the good old days; it is a new era.

Seniors housing would be developed by a partnership including the Aurora Housing Authority, Northern Lights Development Corp. – which is a not-for-profit arm of the housing authority – and a limited partnership of investors.

Roberts said the partnership is investing $23 million in private funds raised from Bank of America, the National Equity Fund and the IFF. The latter two are non-profit companies specializing in investing in public and neighborhood projects.

Roberts said the Aurora Housing Authority’s main contribution is to donate land and promote development. Once built, the development will be managed by a private management company on site.

Northern Lights is a “general partner member” and sponsor of the project, providing a “single point of accountability” for development, Roberts said.

The partnership would own the property once built, as they invest the $23 million raised.

Aldus. Committee member Patty Smith, 8th Ward, told the developers that the history of this property is “the elephant in the room”. She asked that they give assurances that “we are not ending up in a place that we had to remove”.

Roberts said the property will be subject to a 30-year restricted land use agreement which states that the property must be senior housing for at least that long. He added that as part of the capitalization of the project, $600,000 will be set aside for maintenance, to ensure the property is maintained.

He said managers will use a strict tenant screening plan that will ensure the development still meets age restriction and income eligibility guidelines.

Ralph Jordan, director of the Aurora Housing Authority, pointed out that the Housing Authority offices are still on the old Jericho Circle site and will remain there after the development is built.

He said the Housing Authority had seen ‘a decrease in many serious issues at our sites’ since he took over as manager four years ago.

“We know how to monitor and manage properties,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 32 years. There are reasons why we want to keep our offices there. I have to stop there every morning.

Jordan also told Ald. Committee member Carl Franco, 5th Ward, that since he’s been there four years, any old issues with Northern Lights “have been resolved.”

Franco asked specifically if people from the Housing Authority were “in the pay of Northern Lights”.

“That’s not happening,” Jordan said. “That hasn’t happened since I’ve been here, and it won’t happen at all.”

The same partnership developing the property completed a similar senior development in Joliet called Liberty Landing, on land donated by the Joliet Housing Authority. City officials, including some of the committee’s aldermen, said they toured the Joliet development and were impressed.

“It’s impactful,” Alexandrou said. “We said, if Joliet can do it, why can’t the city of Aurora do it?”

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