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posted: 1/9/2014 5:30 AM

Elgin approves more affordable housing

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Construction of new affordable housing for seniors is expected to start this summer in Elgin, after the city council gave final approval on Wednesday night.

The $25 million project by the Housing Authority of Elgin consists of rehabbing Central Park Tower at 120 S. State St. and building a new six-story building just to the south.

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An existing, vacant building on the site will be demolished within the next 60 days, and construction will last about 18 months after a summer groundbreaking, HAE CEO Damon Duncan said.

The project -- funded mostly by low-income housing tax credits -- will add six overall units to the current combined 158 units. HAE is open to residents ages 50 and up.

Councilmen Terry Gavin, John Prigge and Toby Shaw cast the "no" votes.

Elgin Mayor David Kaptain said the project will improve the quality of life for the more than 150 residents of Central Park Tower and their families.

Also, the stormwater retention component of the project, which will create about 100 construction jobs, will benefit nearby St. Edward Central Catholic High School and its neighbor, Kaptain said.

"It's an improvement for the neighborhood that reaches beyond the building," he said.

Dozens of residents have spoken both for and against the project in the last months.

The bottom line is that zoning decisions have long-term impact, Prigge said.

"This is an issue that will affect generations of Elginites," he said.

The housing authority could have found better locations for the project, such as the Eagle Heights subdivision in Elgin's northwest side, Prigge added.

Neighbors had expressed concerns about adequate parking and increased traffic on Locus Street.

A parking study showed there will be a surplus of 35 parking spaces over the HAE's projected needs. The Elgin Fire Department gave its thumbs-up to the proposed one-way driveway with an exit on Locust Street.

"There were some very legitimate concerns and some fears, and I think we addressed them all," Duncan said.

Also, the new building was redesigned after some residents and council members asked for a more traditional look.

Resident Chuck Keysor, treasurer of the Near West Neighbors Association, was among those who opposed the project, which got a preliminary OK from the city council last month.

"I'm disappointed, but not surprised," Keysor said.

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