Marion Jones Townhomes coming down for new public housing
One of Illinois' oldest housing projects is about to be torn down and replaced on the same Lake County site by a $37 million complex with a senior building and family apartments.
Movers and shakers from across Lake County are expected to gather Friday for a ceremony to commemorate the demolition of Marion Jones Townhomes on Sherman Avenue in North Chicago. Marion Jones is owned by the Lake County Housing Authority.
Lake County Housing Authority CEO/Executive Director David Northern said Marion Jones, built in 1961, went well beyond being suitable for residents. Housing authority officials said it became one of the oldest projects in Illinois.
"Despite its continuous comprehensive maintenance program, the physical conditions, building systems and infrastructure have reached the end of their useful life," Northern said. "The infrastructure systems were deteriorated. Sewer waste lines, drainage lines and water supply lines were in need of complete replacement. Serious sewer problems have resulted in units becoming uninhabitable for health reasons related to exposure of raw sewage."
Once Marion Jones is demolished, the $37 million complex built in its place will have a 50-unit senior building and 186 separate family apartments. Plans call for the units specifically for those 62 and older to be built first, followed by the family apartments targeted for completion in 2016, officials said.
Lake County Board member Audrey Nixon said the region as a whole should benefit from the new facility. Nixon said it not only will provide construction jobs and other work, but it also will help to revitalize a section of eastern Lake County.
"I look to the future," said Nixon, who will be part of Friday's ceremony. "I think the area is going to be developed into something most people wouldn't expect."
Marion Jones' residents have been gone since the demolition plan was announced last year. The residents moved from the complex's 125 units to other places operated by the Lake County, Waukegan, North Chicago and Joliet housing authorities and out-of-state public housing.
Northern said the Atlanta-based Benoit Group will lead the project. Benoit is known for affordable family housing, independent senior living and mixed-used developments.
Under the terms of Benoit's agreement with the Lake County Housing Authority, a minium of 30 percent of the new Marion Jones project must be handled by local minority and women-owned organizations. Northern said the housing authority has contacted chambers of commerce in Lake County and North Chicago city officials to identify potential subcontractors and construction workers.
Marion Jones had been geared toward low- to moderate-income families. The new complex of 28 row buildings in a campus setting will be considered "mixed-finance" housing and include a community building with a computer laboratory, fitness center, recreation area and activity space for children.
Financing for the project will come from public and private sources, including the housing authority and the federal government, Northern said.
Launched in 1946, the Lake County Housing Authority supports more than 11,000 residents and mostly receives its public funding from the federal government. It is the fourth-largest housing authority in Illinois.