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Local News

Future of Riverwalk Homes debated

Neighborhood residents question cost projections for redevelopment

The city’s plan to recoup its costs in acquiring the former Evergreen Terrace came into question at a stakeholders’ meeting Monday.

Holsten Development, the company that would do any redevelopment of the 356-unit, subsidized apartment complex now called Riverwalk Homes, hosted a meeting in the Cathedral Area, the first of four planned neighborhood meetings on the project.

Some residents at the meeting suggested the redevelopment plans were too constrained by a city requirement that they show a means of recouping $21.4 million in acquisition and legal costs.

“I really wish that our city would want to do things the right way – not just the cheapest, not just the one that will bring in the most money,” Cathedral Area resident Kathy Cawley said.

Redeveloping Riverwalk Homes could cost anywhere from $34.8 million to $58 million, according to the redevelopment plans presented by Holsten. Even with the rents generated by the development, the city would be looking for anywhere from $2.8 million to $24 million to cover those costs.

The redevelopment price estimates include the cost of recouping the city’s expenses in acquiring Evergreen Terrace.

Holsten also presented the inexpensive options of demolishing two buildings to reduce the number of apartments to 319. Demolition costs would be covered by reserves already available, but there would be no other changes to Riverwalk Homes.

Bob Nachtrieb, a member of the Cathedral Area Preservation Association, criticized the inclusion of acquisition costs in the redevelopment estimates and said residents of the city were not getting a real chance to help shape the future of the development.

“We are given five plans kind of like going through cattle chutes, and we get to vote on one,” Nachtrieb said.

Sara Stovall, co-president of the St. John’s Neighborhood Association, where Riverwalk Homes is located, suggested that Holsten show redevelopment price estimates that do not include the costs of acquisition.

Peter Holsten, president of Holsten Development, said he could do that and noted that the city does not have to choose from the five redevelopment scenarios his company presented.

“We are open to changing the five scenarios that we’ve given,” Holsten said.

He said some suggestions to completely redevelop the site, even adding storefronts to create a retail district with the apartments, would require major city investment.

While many Cathedral Area residents would like to see major redevelopment of Riverwalk Homes, Holsten next week will meet with residents at the complex. Holsten said the major concern there is that people will lose their homes.

The city needs to present a redevelopment plan by Sept. 27 to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to meet a deadline created by a settlement Joliet made with the federal agency during the course of the Evergreen Terrace lawsuit.

Holsten, however, said he did not think the city would be bound forever by whatever plan is presented.

“We have to give them something by Sept. 27, but I don’t think it has to be super firm,” he said.

Quinn Adamowski, president of the Cathedral Area Preservation Association, suggested that the least expensive plan to demolish two buildings would buy time to consider other options for Riverwalk Homes.

“The first two scenarios – 10 years from now, 20 years from now – provide the city with the option to do something different,” Adamowski said.

About 75 people attended the meeting at First Presbyterian Church.

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