Three major construction and renovation projects in the 28th Ward are about to kick off and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) is looking to help his constituents get jobs out of them.
The first project would renovate the East Park Apartments, an East Garfield Park Single Room Occupancy building designed to provide affordable housing and social services for West Side residents.
The second project entails the redevelopment of the currently vacant lot at 2020 W. Ogden Avenue into the Gateway mixed-use development.
The final project would change the Medical District Apartments complex at 901-903 S. Ashland Ave. The existing buildings will be renovated and a new mixed-use building will be added.
While the jobs are open to everyone, 28th Ward residents will get priority. Many of those jobs aren’t limited to labor union members, but the wages are similar to what union employees would get. And developers emphasized that they want to attract as many applications as possible.
East Park Apartments, located at 3300 W. Maypole Avenue, reportedly has over 150 units, all but one of which are affordable to residents earning no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. Residents also receive housing vouchers to help cover their rent.
The building has an on-site computer lab, laundry and a social service classroom, where residents receive social support services. A report on the facility touts its proximity to grocery stores, restaurants, medical facilities and social service providers.
The renovations, developers say, will add a new fitness center, make the building more energy-efficient, upgrade utilities and mechanical systems, and fix minor maintenance issues.
“The goal of the redevelopment project at East Park is to ensure continued long-term operations, by addressing critically needed improvements to mechanical systems, the building envelope and interior areas,” the report stated.
About two-thirds of the project costs will be covered through a combination of Tax Increment Financing funds, proceeds from city bond sales, and state and federal loans. Because the project receives government funding, at least half of the 30 construction jobs must be filled by Chicago residents, and the wages are set based on prevailing union wages. Construction will start on Feb. 1, 2017.
The Gateway project, on the other hand, would create something from scratch. The Illinois Medical District Commission has been trying to redevelop this vacant 9.5 acre lot for years, but all of the previous attempts fell through.
The latest redevelopment proposal, which is expected to cost about $300 million and is financed by the group of developers known as IMD Gateway partners, was approved by the commission in the spring of 2015.
The plan calls for building three office buildings, a Hilton hotel, a residential high-rise and a 530-space parking garage. Construction is expected to start sometime in the second quarter of 2017.
The Medical District Apartments project comprises two phases. The first phase will rehab the existing apartments and touch-up the buildings’ facades. That part will start next month. The second phase would involve the construction of two new, largely residential buildings on the site where the current parking garages are located.
The new buildings will have built-in parking garages for both current and new tenants, and one of the buildings will have a grocery store and other retail on the ground floor. This phase of the plan requires a zoning change, and if it goes through, construction is expected to start in the summer of 2017.
Tandem Ventures, a Chicago-based consulting firm, has been working with Ervin’s office to ensure that these and other projects within the 28th ward have job opportunities for local residents.
Ta Juana Tang, the company’s principal, attended an Oct. 17 28th Ward community meeting, which was held in Malcolm X College’s West Side Learning Center. She said that all three projects will give priority to job seekers from the area.
“We’re looking for people in the 28th ward,” she said. “If you have family members [or other people you know] who live outside the ward, they can complete the application as well, but hiring preference is always [going to be] given to someone in the 28th ward.”
Tang said that the companies are looking for “all construction jobs.” While skilled and unskilled applicants are welcome, they must have some level of construction experience.
“We do have a lot of firms that do mentor-protégé-type relationships, where they pair someone with a higher skill-set,” Tang added.
While not everyone who applies would get jobs, their applications will be kept on file, she said, adding that knowing that there is a certain set number of people who can work will go a long way.
“I cannot stress enough the importance of us building a healthy database,” she said. “‘How many individuals we’re committing to hire? That’s the first thing we ask [developers]. When they give us a number, we want to be able to fill it. It makes no sense for them [to make commitments] if we don’t have the people.”
Tang cautioned, however, that her company and Ervin can’t ensure there are job opportunities on every single construction and renovation project in the ward.
“Right now in the ward, we have approximately five projects going on,” she said. “I don’t talk about projects that are privately funded. We cannot hold [those projects] to the same standards as individuals who are using public funds.”