Glen Ellyn apartment residents wary of potential sale

Posted2/8/2014 8:00 AM
  • The Parkside Apartments in Glen Ellyn are up for sale and some residents say they're worried about whether they'll still be able to live there.

      The Parkside Apartments in Glen Ellyn are up for sale and some residents say they're worried about whether they'll still be able to live there. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Matthew Soerens has lived at Parkside Apartments in Glen Ellyn since 2006.

He and his wife, Diana, held their wedding reception there five years ago. They hope to raise their 7-month-old daughter, Zipporah, there.

But now Soerens and nearly 500 other residents of what was called an affordable housing complex along Roosevelt Road face an uncertain future, just six months after the apartments were removed from a tax increment financing district.

Parkside's owners put the property up for sale in July and the complex is listed on several real estate websites for $7.25 million. Soerens said residents have been told a closing date for the sale is near.

"What's concerning to us is who buys it and what they want to do with the property," said Soerens, who works for nearby World Relief. The nonprofit group provides humanitarian relief and services to refugees, many of whom live in the Parkside Apartments.

The apartments are owned by Mary Aboutar, Wagih Nessim and Wadie Ashamalla, who purchased the property in 2011. Ashamalla is also listed as the Realtor.

Ashamalla declined to comment on any details of the sale, citing confidentiality.

"We haven't heard anything from anyone who knows," Soerens said. "It (a sale) could improve the community, it could stay the same or it could turn into housing that most people could not afford. We don't know what to expect. Being so close to Roosevelt Road, it would make sense as retail."

The apartments at 18 N. Parkside Ave. feature eight buildings with 120 units tucked behind a used car dealership on Roosevelt Road. Many of the residents are immigrants or refugees.

Worry about the property's future came to the forefront last year. Glen Ellyn officials, looking to create a TIF district for a portion of the Roosevelt Road corridor in light of the increasing number of business vacancies and lack of private development in that area, sent letters to Parkside Apartments residents that possible redevelopment could result in their displacement.

In a TIF district, the assessed value of property is frozen for the purpose of distributing tax money to local units of government. The increase in taxes created by the redeveloped properties are funneled back into improvements.

After much opposition from residents, some 45 of whom spoke at a board meeting against putting the apartments in the TIF district, village officials agreed to remove the complex from the boundaries of the redevelopment plan.

Residents at the time said they were relieved their homes would be saved, but that relief quickly dissipated with news the apartments are for sale.

Abdi Muhamad is one of the refugees from roughly 28 countries that has found a home at Parkside.

A year ago Muhamad, his wife and young child fled their native Somalia amid civil war to Ethiopia, where they were designated refugees and admitted by the U.S.

Through help from World Relief, Muhamad settled in Glen Ellyn. Like many of the other refugees and immigrants at Parkside, the apartments are the only home Muhamad has known in this country.

"We have a lot of friends here and good neighbors. It is peaceful," Muhamad said. "If we go someplace else it will be new, the building will be new, everything will be new. That is what we are worried about."

Village officials said they are not involved with the proposed sale.

"The village has heard those same rumors, but the village has no knowledge of who is purchasing the apartments or what their plans are for them," Village Manager Mark Franz said.

Soerens rejects the perception that the apartments and area around them are dangerous, what one Realtor called a "slum" and "war zone."

He calls the apartments a "uniquely fun neighborhood" with a strong sense of community with more diversity than much of Glen Ellyn. And he worries what would happen to many of his lower-income neighbors should the apartments be demolished.

"The owners have the right to sell the property, but it will impact hundreds of families who live there," Soerens said. "I don't know if there is another place in Glen Ellyn for them to go."

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