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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Chicago LGBTQA Senior Housing breaks ground
by Melissa Wasserman
2013-06-03

This article shared 5805 times since Mon Jun 3, 2013
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A partnership between Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted brought out Lakeview residents and elected officials for the groundbreaking event of the Midwest's first LGBTQ-friendly, affordable senior housing development June 3.

The $26 million development, which repurposes the historic 23rd district Town Hall police station, will contain 79 units and serve as an extension of Center on Halsted's senior services. The building will provide seniors in need of safe housing an affordable living option.

Community members and the press gathered in the bare lot on Halsted Street, close to Center on Halsted, where the future development will stand. Speakers at the event included Executive Director of Heartland Housing, Inc. Michael Goldberg, CEO of Center on Halsted Modesto "Tico" Valle, President of Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights Sid Mohn, Commissioner of Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development Andrew Mooney—who spoke on behalf of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, 44th Ald. Ward Tom Tunney, State Rep. District Sara Feigenholtz, Vice President of Citi Community Capital Natalie Moretz, and Lakeview residents and potential soon-to-be tenants of the new senior housing project Patricia Pratt and Tom Genley.

"A proud day; a day in which the LGBTQ community has realized a victory and that's critically important, especially after the disappointing aspects of last week's lack of legislation in Springfield, but it shows steadily and surely we are achieving rights for the LGBTQ community," said Mohn. "The right to affordable housing is something that is being celebrated today."

Pratt described Lakeview as her home and the LGBTQ community as her family. The Center on Halsted is a place where she said she has spent a significant amount of time socializing and making friends.

"I can't wait," Pratt said of the future senior housing. "If I'm possibly one of the recipients, just the fact that it's LGBTQ and for seniors, and some of my friends hopefully will be living in the building with me. I'm looking for the ethnicity, how we're going to get along as LGBTQ, and how it's going to be with the people who recognize that we're LGBTQ and accept us for who we are because it's not only going to be a senior apartment for LGBTQ, but for other people in the neighborhood. I hope that both sides learn from each other."

To address the issue of affordable housing for the LGBTQ community, the city of Chicago selected Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted to develop the site in February 2012. In March 2013, the Chicago City Council passed the land onto the Center and Heartland. Construction on the yet-unnamed development is expected to be complete in the fall of 2014.

The plan for the facility consists of 30 studio apartments, 49 one-bedroom apartments, 4,450 square feet of ground floor commercial space and 20 covered car parking spaces along with parking spaces for bicycles, among other building amenities. Various eco-friendly strategies will also be employed. Gensler designed the development and Power Construction, LLC will be building the site.

Citi Community Capital, the National Equity Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, the Illinois Department of Human Services, LISC Chicago and BMO Harris are supporting the project.

"It came about in 2005, Heartland Alliance released a study on the needs of LGBTQ individuals and that study revealed that one out of five LGBTQ seniors were living in poverty," said Mohn. "On top of their list of needs was the challenge of finding affordable housing. So it's taken us [nearly] 10 years since the release of that study to achieve a solution, that at least for 79 individuals, we'll give them the right to affordable housing."

Rep. Feigenholtz said the project speaks volumes. She recalled the neighborhood in the '90s gentrifying and pushing many of the seniors out of the community. Adding if there was more awareness around the need for housing back then, there would have been more push for a lot more supportive housing. The LGBTQ community, she said, is mostly at the forefront of new and groundbreaking ideas and this development is just the tip of the iceberg and the community is moving along.

"It's fantastic and it's wonderful to see [it] … happen right here in my district," said Feigenholtz. "Just one more source of pride for me. I think that it's the first of what I hope will be many senior projects for the LGBTQ and straight ally community. I think we're going to be just over the moon about how this works out. It's nice to be witnessing the LGBTQ culture, appreciating how important that is and to respect and nurture their elders and to make sure they're not cast aside, to make sure they're not living in little apartments, isolated. This is really the pinnacle model of housing for seniors and I'm thrilled that I can bring home a little bit of resource and that Heartland folks are involved because they do great work."

Caption for shovel photo: From left, Ellen Sahli, Chief Housing Officer at the Chicago Housing Authority; Natalie Moretz, vice president of Citi Community Capital; Chicago Dept. of Housing Commissioner Andrew Mooney; Ald. Tom Tunney; Rep. Sara Feigenholtz; Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Valle; Heartland Alliance President Sid Mohn; Heartland Housing Executive Director Michael Goldberg; and Karen Przypyszny, SVP Investor Relations - Equity Placement, National Equity Fund. Photo by Hal Baim





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