The renovations to the Northshore Retirement Hotel, including a new addition north of the current building at 1611 Chicago Ave., where the swimming pool currently sits, can proceed without the necessity of an affordable housing set-aside. At its Aug. 12 meeting, City Council approved the special use by a 5-3 vote.
Two special use ordinances had been presented to the City Council in July, one including a 10 percent set-aside for affordable rental units and the other without the set-aside. At that meeting, Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, introduced the ordinance without the set-aside – that is, he put it on the table for discussion at a subsequent Council meeting.
Since that time, he said, "I've changed my mind," citing "substantial rent increases" that threaten to force residents out of their homes.
The City imposes an affordable-housing requirement on condominiums, but not on rental projects.
During citizen comment, several residents spoke of seniors being forced to move. Joey Conway of Senior Connections said that "seniors have vacated Northshore because rent has gone up" or "meals are no longer included."
But Jeff Michael of Horizon Realty, the new owner of the project, said, "There hasn't been any increase to the rent because we're doing renovations there." He admitted, however, that after the renovations, rent will have to increase somewhat. The renovations will result in larger spaces and fewer units in the original building – about 140 rather than 180 units. He also said rent will be $2,000 to $2,500 per month, which will include meals, housekeeping and furniture and no requirement of an up-front buy-in.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, "I believe this is an affordable opportunity [for seniors]. It's not upscale. It's in the middle. It's not the Georgian, not the Westminster. And it's not public housing. This is the middle." The City did not go to Trader Joe's, she said, and as a condition of their zoning require the store “to reduce the cost of food for seniors" or the near-poor.
"I don't think we should impose this on them," she concluded.
Alderman Judy Fiske, whose First Ward includes the North Shore, said that if the City planned to require a 10 percent set-aside, they should have informed the developer much earlier in the process. "If there's going to be an affordable set-aside [requirement], we ought to tell you before you buy the building," she said.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she supported a set-aside requirement, "I'm just saying they can set aside 10 percent." She and Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, joined Ald. Tendam in voting against the special use. The vote was 5-3 in favor.