Rosemont residents say they're being forced out of apartments

A group of Rosemont residents who live in apartment buildings north of the Allstate Arena say they're being forced out by a new property manager who is serving them with eviction notices and planning to raise rent to levels they won't be able to afford.

The manager says the residents need to be out so direly needed renovations can be made to the buildings to make them "livable and respectable."

The town's powerful mayor, meanwhile, believes the management company may price itself out of the market with the higher rents, expected to rise from $750 for a one-bedroom unit to $1,100, and from $850-990 to $1,300 for two bedrooms.

The neighborhood contains 80 apartment buildings - most three stories tall and six units each - and has long been home to many of the village's service employees who work at the convention center, hotels and restaurants.

"It's a free world, if someone can buy a piece of property and do what they want with it and if someone is willing to pay the money," Mayor Brad Stephens said Thursday. "But I have a concern because a lot of the workforce in Rosemont (lives there). We've done a lot to try to improve the neighborhood there. The idea wasn't to improve the neighborhood to have somebody come in and buy up and throw the good, hardworking people out."

Residents say they first began receiving eviction notices in March, after Tri-United purchased 12 of the apartment buildings from former owner Dominic Santoro. The buildings, on Barry Street, Touhy Avenue, and Ann, Betty, Carol, Doris and Ethel courts, went for $6 million, Stephens said.

Tri-United representatives attended a community meeting at the Barry Street Recreation Center April 21, although residents say the meeting lasted less than an hour and the property managers left abruptly.

Families with children, many of whom attend Des Plaines Elementary District 62, asked if they could stay through the end of the school year, which is Friday. About 30 families remain today from the 72 that were there before March. Eviction proceedings have so far started against only two residents, according to Cook County court records.

Jami Coyle, vice president of management for Tri-United, said Thursday renovations have begun on units that are empty - everything from repainting walls to replacing cabinets, flooring and appliances.

Coyle said as leases expire they are not being renewed so the repairs can be made. Tenants with expired leases or those soon to be - as well as residents not paying rent - have gotten notices, she said.

"We are performing maintenance and repairs that have been needed for decades," Coyle wrote in an email. "We don't believe that there has been comprehensive maintenance or repairs done to the buildings since they were built well over 60 years ago. We are simply making the units livable and respectable living spaces."

Coyle also said residents were told they are welcome to apply for a new apartment once available.

But Ruby Batres, a longtime resident who's helped lead an effort of neighbors to try to stay in their homes, said they were also told rents would be higher, and they'd be subject to criminal background checks and a running of credit reports.

It's likely many of the residents won't come back, Batres said, adding that many are undocumented.

Michele Agudelo, 21, a commuter student who attends Columbia College, has lived in an apartment on Touhy with her parents her whole life. They're one of the few families in the Tri-United buildings who haven't received a notice yet.

"It could happen to us, too. It's just a matter of time," she said. "It's gentrification. They want new residents with a different economic background, without thinking of the current residents."

At a community meeting Wednesday night, residents said property managers threatened jail time if they didn't vacate and alleged Tri-United managers falsely said they were with Rosemont public safety officers when knocking on doors - an allegation denied by Tri-United officials Thursday.

It's also an allegation Stephens heard, prompting him to call a meeting with them.

"Let me tell you something," he says he told them. "If somebody is misrepresenting, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Don't mistreat the people of this community."

Residents on Wednesday said they'd send a letter to Tri-United to ask for another meeting, but Coyle said Thursday Tri-United wouldn't attend.

She said the first round of renovated units will be ready to rent in the next 30 days.

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