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updated: 12/10/2013 11:23 PM

Housing Authority modifies plans, again

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Plans for new affordable housing for seniors in Elgin were modified a second time after neighbors and some city council members voiced concerns about aesthetics, parking and traffic.

The nearly $25 million project by the Housing Authority of Elgin consists of rehabbing Central Park Tower, an 11-story, 150-unit building at 120 S. State St., and building a six-story building next door at 132 S. State St., where the housing authority owns a vacant building that will be demolished.

Initially, the new building was designed with a bold, reddish color scheme, but after negative feedback it was toned down with earth hues late this summer.

Architect Johnathan Brinkley of Excel Engineering, in Fond du Lac, Wis., presented a third version of the plan at a public meeting attended by about 50 people Tuesday at the Centre of Elgin.

The new color scheme includes neutral browns and some grays, and does away with contemporary design elements to give the building a more traditional look, he said.

Councilwoman Carol Rauschenberger said she was pleased by the changes.

"I like it better than the original one. I was on the ones asking for a more traditional look."

Neighbors had complained the project didn't have enough on-site parking, but a study conducted by Elgin-based Walker Parking Consultants showed there will be a surplus of 35 spaces over the projected needs of staff, residents and their guests, Housing Authority of Elgin CEO Damon Duncan said.

Only about 30 percent of HAE residents have a car, he said.

Neighbor Chuck Keysor said he believes the parking study paints "a rosy scenario" for what is already a stressed, overcrowded neighborhood. "You have to design for worst case situations," he said.

Neighbor Karen Ahrens said the city should aim to decrease congestion, not add to it. "When we have people over, we have to cram our parking area because there's no place to park, even on our street," she said.

Elgin Community Development Director Marc Mylott said the plan meets city code. "We believe the current proposal has put forth the best balance," he said.

Right now, both dwellings -- the 11-story building and the building that will be demolished -- have 158 units. When the new building is built, there will be 164 units combined.

The plan includes a one-way driveway from State Street exiting on Locust Street.

Residents had expressed concerns about traffic on Locust Street, so the architects looked at creating a two-way driveway. That, however, would cause the loss of either 14 parking spaces, or space for vehicles to cue up at the entrance while allowing others to drive past, Brinkley said.

The Elgin Fire Department said a one-way driveway would be "optimal from a safety standpoint," Duncan said. The project will have a direct and indirect economic impact of almost $30.7 million.

, including nearly 100 construction jobs, Duncan said. The plan will be considered by the Elgin City Council at its next meeting Dec. 18.

State Sen. Michael Noland said he supports the project, whose funding mainly comes via low-income housing tax credits and the federal rental assistance demonstration program.

"We're providing housing for those people who really have contributed to our communities in the past, and maybe need a little bit of a hand now," Noland said.

"We all want a nice place to live -- young, old, rich, poor, black, brown, white," HAE resident Mauricea Rhodes said. "We deserve this."

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