Demolition, redevelopment plans for Joliet’s Riverwalk Homes approved

A welcome sign sits outside of Riverwalk Homes on Tuesday, July 13, 2021,  in Joliet, Ill. Holsten Development, the company that manages Riverwalk Homes, will begin demolishing some of the buildings beginning in 2022, as part of a project to reduce the number of units on site from 356 to 177 by 2025

Joliet has approved a $77 million redevelopment plan for Riverwalk Homes.

The City Council on Tuesday voted 6-2 with one member abstaining for the plan to demolish four buildings and renovate apartments at three others at the low-income housing complex formerly called Evergreen Terrace.

The number of apartments will be reduced from 356 to 177.

The plan is part of a settlement agreement reached with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which had been among those opposed to the city in its lengthy condemnation case to take the property away from private owners.

Joliet took over Riverwalk Homes in 2017, and the redevelopment plan to reduce the size of the complex was first approved by the City Council in 2018. At that time, the cost was estimated at $35 million.

The redevelopment plan was approved without comments on Tuesday, although council members did discuss it at a workshop session the night before.

At the Monday meeting, Mayor Terry D’Arcy said discussions he had with HUD concerning the project did not lead to any changes.

“Nothing we said or did could change the 2017 court order,” D’Arcy said. “We just have to make the best of the opportunity.”

D’Arcy said HUD has introduced the city to some different concepts for low-income housing. But he did not say whether the city planned to pursue another redevelopment plan in the future.

Riverwalk Homes is located on Broadway Street on a site along the Des Plaines River across the river from the downtown area.

The plan approved by the city calls for improvements at the remaining buildings that include interior and exterior renovations, new windows and roofs, upgrades at 36 units to improve accessibility and upgrades at building entrances to make them compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The plan also includes a terraced plaza in a central area surrounded by the remaining buildings.

The city’s condemnation suit against the former private owners of Evergreen Terrace argued in part that the high-density living arrangements at the 356-unit complex contributed to crime and other problems.

Demolition and redevelopment at one time was to start in 2021 but has been pushed back as the Joliet and Holsten Development, the city’s ownership partner at Riverwalk Homes, sought low-interest financing to pay for the project.

Holsten CEO Peter Holsten said he now expects construction to begin in 2024 and take about 18 months to complete.

The project includes first finding new homes for residents who will leave Riverwalk Homes as apartments are demolished.

Council member Suzanna Ibarra, who works for the social services arm of the Holsten company, abstained from the vote. Larry Hug and Jan Quillman voted against the redevelopment plan.