News - Joliet and Will County

Demolition marks end of an era in Joliet public housing

Vacant Fairview Homes set to be demolished in Joliet

Housing Authority of Joliet CEO Michael Simelton oversees demolition on Saturday, June 8, 2019, at Fairview Homes in Joliet, Ill.

The Joliet Housing Authority expects that the now-vacant Fairview Homes will be demolished later this summer.

On Saturday, the JHA held a ceremonial demolition now that all residents have moved out of the development’s 168 units. John Chow, the chief of development and operations for the JHA, said the last of the residents moved out a couple of weeks ago.

The demolition of the homes was originally scheduled for the end of 2018, but there were delays in moving all the residents out. Chow said the JHA is still waiting for approval of a permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, but he expects that to be done before the end of June.

“This is a very positive thing that we’re doing,” Chow said.

He added that Fairview is the last of the JHA’s apartment complexes for low-income families as it has turned to building mixed-income developments.

Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, and Joliet City Council members Bettye Gavin and Jan Quillman were all on hand for the ceremony. Some of the local officials, including JHA CEO Michael Simelton, took turns operating an excavator to start taking apart of one of the units.

“I say it’s a very good day in the neighborhood because of the demolition,” Gavin said. “That type of housing is really outdated.”

Gavin said the JHA’s shift to mixed-income public housing developments is more preferable than the Fairview Homes model. Fairview Homes was built in the 1960s.

Gavin said she was happy to hear that more than half the former Fairview residents found housing in Joliet, but she still wanted to see more economic growth in the city’s Forest Park area, specifically in terms of added public transportation and a grocery store.

Over the decades, the units faced a number of challenges, from a lack of adequate investment, deterioration, infrastructure challenges and instances of violence. Last year, the JHA announced that with limited funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to upgrade the homes, it decided to tear the units down. HUD approved the demolition on July 2, 2018.

Chow added that while the area is unfit for housing, there are still ongoing talks as to what to do with the land once the homes are completely demolished. He said there is potential to create more green space or retention ponds on the 15-acre site.

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz

Alex Ortiz is a reporter for The Herald-News in Joliet. Originally from Romeoville, Ill., he joined The Herald-News in 2017 and mostly covers Will County government, politics, education and more. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a master's degree from Northwestern University.