Alderman Gardiner raises affordability concerns about proposed senior complex at Six Corners
by BRIAN NADIG
Whether the proposed Point senior housing complex at Six Corners would be affordable for local seniors is one of the concerns which newly installed Alderman Jim Gardiner (45th) has about the proposal.
Gardiner said that the delay in City Council approval of the project will allow for more community input and for the opportunity for possible changes. Gardiner talked about the proposal at the May 21 meeting of the Six Corners Chamber of Commerce.
“The easiest thing for me to do was to just let that go” and get approved, Gardiner said. “I’m not against it per se, (but) it’s going to be built on my watch, (and) I want a voice in how it is going to be built.” He added that his zoning decisions would be based on community feedback.
Under the proposal, the 10-story senior complex at 3911 N. Milwaukee Ave. would include 101 independent living apartments, and 146 assisted living units, including memory care units.
The developer has compared the complex’s amenities to those of a cruise ship. The monthly rents would generally range from about $4,400 to $7,200, with some rents higher and lower depending in part on how many in-house meals a day a tenant wants, according to Gardiner.
“I know by far the majority of seniors can’t afford that,” Gardiner said. “I want to fight for more opportunities for people to stay in the community. … There are no affordable units on site.”
Gardiner said after the meeting that the development would not qualify as a Medicaid-approved nursing home and that Medicare could not be used toward the rent, although some of the add-on medical-related services offered in the building may be covered by Medicare.
Gardiner said that the financial gains which most area seniors get when they sell their home would be used up within a few years of living in the building and that the developer indicated to him that tenants who could no longer afford their rent would have to move out.
A resident at the meeting said that there are better locations in the area for a senior living complex. She mentioned as an example the site of the Peoples Gas facility at 3955 N. Kilpatrick Ave., which could become available for redevelopment after the facility completes its relocation to a new building in Sauganash.
“I question whether assisted living and memory care at the corner (of Irving Park Road and Milwaukee Avenue) is the best way to” revitalize Six Corners, Gardiner said.
Apartments geared toward young professionals may be better suited for the site given its prominent location in the middle of the business district and that there likely would be a strong market demand for such units. “There’s a wave coming down Milwaukee Avenue,” he said. “Look at Wicker Park.”
Gardiner also said that he has concerns about the proposed 10-story height of the complex’s north end given that the Six Corners Master Plan calls for a series of four- and five-story buildings on the site. The south end would be one-story tall and include retail space.
Some residents said that the project would represent a $120 million investment in the business district and that further delays would hurt efforts to revitalize the area. The site has been a large hole, often collecting water, since 2016 when a bank building on the property was demolished.
Former alderman John Arena has supported the project, which has been in the works for about 2 ½ years, and it appeared headed for approval last winter, but the item was pulled from an agenda of a Chicago Plan Commission meeting in January. Documents released by the city through a Freedom of Information request indicate that the Department of Planning and Department had concerns about the lack of on-site affordable units.
Plans call for the construction of 10 off-site affordable units in one or two buildings within two miles of the main development site in order to meet the city’s affordable housing requirements, but it is not known where those units would be built. Those off-site units would not be restricted to seniors only.
“In future developments, I’d like to see the affordable units on site,” Gardiner said.
As alderman, Gardiner said, community engagement will be one of his top priorities.
Gardiner said that while knocking on doors during the campaign he heard concerns about the decision-making process for the planned mixed-income housing building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. Arena signed a legal document agreeing to support rezoning the Northwest Highway site to B3-5, which allows for dense residential development, prior to holding a community meeting on the proposal.
At the meeting Gardiner also talked about his background and his motivation to run for alderman.
Gardiner has worked as a school teacher and served as a firefighter for 14 years, living almost his entire life in the Gladstone/Rosedale Park area.
“This is the community who raised me,” Gardiner said. “I’m not a politician. … I’m simply a guy who wants to improve our neighborhood.”