Housing nonprofit eyeing Obama Center deals to blunt gentrification

Group buying nearby apartment complexes to keep rents low

Chicago /
Jun.June 13, 2022 11:53 AM
A rendering of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park with Preservation of Affordable Housing Senior vice president Bill Eagers (POAH, iStock)

A rendering of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park with Preservation of Affordable Housing Senior vice president Bill Eagers (POAH, iStock)

A Chicago nonprofit is buying residential properties near the Obama Presidential Center in the hopes of keeping rents in check for longtime residents.

Preservation of Affordable Housing is “open to opportunities to buy more apartment buildings for the purpose of keeping them affordable,” the group’s Bill Eager told the Chicago Business Journal at an event for two buildings the organization bought in 2019.

The nonprofit will next month close on its newest property, Jackson Park Terrace, a 318-unit apartment complex at 6054 S. Stony Island Ave., across the street from the center. It bought the property with New York’s Jonathan Rose Cos. for $25 million. Last year, the company bought the 240-unit Island Terrace Apartments at 6430 S. Stony Island Ave. for $29 million. That apartment complex is five blocks away from the OPC.

The project has neighboring communities worried about gentrification and rising housing prices. Obama Community Benefits Agreement Coalition members worried that the new presidential center could bring investments and higher home prices and rents that could drive out longtime residents.

“Our ears are always on the ground listening for opportunities that we think would be good for us,” Eager said. “We don’t typically pursue something unless we have some information that it might be available. I’m not sure if there’s anything on the market [in that area] right now, but if it is we would certainly take a look at it.”

The $830 million Obama Presidential Center and Library has long been billed as a transformational project for the South Side, specifically the South Shore neighborhood and the area around Jackson Park. Approved by the city in 2018, the center then had to undergo a three-year federal review. Construction began in September 2021 and is expected to open in 2025.

The OPC will sit within the park along Stony Island Avenue, just south of the Museum of Science and Industry. It includes a museum, a winter garden, community plaza, a Chicago Public Library branch, a women’s garden, a park and community activity center and a children’s play area.

The Woodlawn Housing Preservation ordinance, which was adopted in September 2020, set aside $4.5 million for housing programs in the neighborhood around the center. It also established an affordability requirement for 30 percent of the new housing units that will be built on more than 50 vacant lots owned by the city.

[Chicago Business Journal] — Miranda Davis






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