Elgin commission recommends affordable housing at former Larkin Center
Elgin's planning and zoning commission gave the thumbs-up to a plan to turn the former Larkin Center into affordable housing for residents including people with disabilities.
Commissioners voted 5-1 Monday to recommend approval of the nearly $19 million plan by the Chicago-based nonprofit Full Circle Communities Inc. to redevelop the empty property at 1212 Larkin Ave. into 48 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The property has four buildings. Two would be preserved, including the main one dating back to 1912; the others would be demolished to make way for 12 new residential buildings designed to look like single-family homes.
The Association for Individual Development would have a full-time employee on site, and Full Circle Communities would have two full-time employees, including one living there, said Lindsey Haines, vice president of Full Circle Communities.
Ten units will be reserved for people with disabilities, who also will get preference for the rest, Haines said. The goal is to have a mix of residents, including working families, to provide "intentional, integrated supportive housing," she said. Amenities would include a community room, fitness center, library/study room, computer lab and laundry.
Twenty-five people spoke at the meeting Monday, with about 60 percent speaking in support of the plan. Another 43 in the audience indicated they were in favor, three against, Community Development Director Marc Mylott said.
The plan includes several variances from Elgin's standard code requirements, including fewer parking spaces, more units with smaller footprints and shorter street setback. That's because the goal is to preserve the main historic building and "there is the need for some flexibility for the rest of the site," Haines said.
Mylott pointed out the smallest two-bedroom proposed is bigger than the largest two-bedroom in the Tower Building in downtown Elgin. Also, "bringing the houses closer to the street is more in keeping with the residential development pattern found at the turn of the century."
As for parking, the amount proposed is more than what's being used at any of the seven communities managed by Full Circle, Mylott said.
Resident James Allen said he objects to the many variances. He's generally in favor of the plan, he said, but would rather see the Larkin Center offer community services like job training and adult learning for everyone, not just a few residents.
"We have to do something for everyone," he said. "I was hoping the city would step in to do it."
Other residents said they had concerns about increased crime, traffic and parking issues. Full Circle hosted a meeting for residents in the fall and, as a result, is proposing adding a sidewalk along Clifton Avenue and crosswalks and stop signs along Wolff Avenue at the intersections with Clifton and Melrose avenues, Haines said.
Resident Jacki Hartley said she supports the plan because it would allow people with disabilities to integrate into the community. It also would give residents a chance to attain financial stability and possibly homeownership, she said.
The nearly $19 million plan includes federal historic tax credits, federal low-income housing tax credits, private debt and equity, and energy efficiency funds, Haines said. Pending city council approval, the agency hopes to start construction this summer and complete it in summer 2020, she said.