Ahead of Arlington 425 vote, sides try to find right portion of affordable housing
Should the proposed Arlington 425 development in downtown Arlington Heights have some apartments for rent at below-market rates, more than proposed, or none at all?
It's a question now before village officials and the developer -- as residents on both sides of the affordable housing debate chime in -- just days before the village board could vote on the massive $150 million proposal for a long-vacant block on the west side of downtown.
The plan calls for a three-building residential and commercial campus on the Block 425 parcel -- bounded by Campbell Street, Highland Avenue, Sigwalt Street and Chestnut Avenue.
After a three-hour review of the project Monday night, the village's housing commission asked developer CCH, LLC to provide more financials before commissioners recommend exactly how many of the development's proposed 361 units should be rented at lower prices.
The commission is the final appointed village panel to review Arlington 425 before it goes to the village board for a final vote; the plan and design commissions have already issued positive recommendations to village trustees.
But with a scheduled board vote next Monday, May 6 -- and the developer wanting to get shovels in the ground this year -- it's still unknown if a vote will be delayed with the housing recommendation still in limbo. Village board agendas are released Friday afternoon.
At the heart of negotiations between the village and developer is how 18 studio and one-bedroom units should be priced: the village wants them to be for those making at or below 60% of the area median income, while the developer wants an 80% standard.
That's the difference between a single person making $35,580 in a year and one making $47,400. Monthly rent for a studio apartment would be either $889 or $1,185.
The developer also is offering fees in lieu of nine units at $25,000 per unit, for a total of $225,000.
Meanwhile, residents at the meeting Monday engaged in a lively back-and-forth with four of six commission members present, village staff members, the developer and his attorney. Some agreed with the village and developer's preferred housing choices. Still others on opposite ends debated that as many as 54 units should be rented at a below-market rate -- in line with a 15% village guideline -- versus those who questioned whether those apartments would lead to increased crime.
Keith Moens, a frequent attendee of village meetings, argued the number of units negotiated was a "borderline insult on what should be done in this community." Moens led a rally outside village hall before the meeting Monday night with Reclaim NW Suburbs, which has pushed the village to put teeth in its housing guidelines by adopting a formal ordinance.
Mike Firsel, attorney for developer Bruce Adreani, said they support some cheaper housing within two of the three proposed buildings on the campus, but building more than proposed would make the development too costly.
"This project cannot be built -- taxes cannot be paid, debt service cannot be paid, nor can a $15 million parking garage be built -- if we have to give the type of affordable housing that is in the guidelines, which is not a law," Firsel said. "Arlington 425 should not be made to solve all the affordable housing problems in the Northwest suburbs."
"To say this is a greedy developer -- 'He gets rich and the affordable housing suffers' -- is an equal insult," Firsel continued.
A handful of residents raised concerns of crime from the less costly apartments, citing increased police calls at Parkview Apartments, at 212 N. Dunton Ave., including an aggravated battery arrest there in March.
"People in this audience that are skeptical of the project -- they have a right to be skeptical about it," said Mark Bostrom, publisher of the Arlington Cardinal crime blog.
Parkview was financed using low-income tax credits, while Arlington 425 is being privately funded. Charles Witherington-Perkins, the village's director of planning and community development, called it an "apples and oranges" comparison.