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New senior housing faces pushback from Rogers Park residents

The developer of a new LGBTQ-friendly senior housing and artist living workspace on Chicago’s North Side has a history of malpractice against vulnerable people who reside in its properties.  The Alden Foundation, a Chicago-based nonprofit senior living development group, and Artspace Projects Inc., a Minneapolis-based developer that constructs affordable units for artists, have proposed a budget of $30 million to complete the project. 

However, some neighbors are concerned about Alden’s history of property management misconduct from development built under the Alden Network. 

Alden Village North, 7464 N. Sheridan Road, located in Rogers Park and managed by Alden Management Services was investigated by the state for malpractice. In 2014, The Chicago Tribune found 14 children and young adults died within 10 years from 2000 to 2010. 

Despite this, Alden Village North has remained open by paying the fines and agreeing to make improvements. 

The day after the idea was unveiled Nov. 12 at a community meeting, Rogers Park resident Chica Hope voiced her concerns about the project and Alden Foundation’s connections with Alden Management Services, both under the Alden Network. 

“I have deep reservations about handing a project purporting to hold progressive ideals over to an organization that has an abysmal history of ensuring the well-being of marginalized populations in its care,” Hope said. 

She said her concerns come from the numerous charges of abuse and neglect towards the foundation’s patients, both children with disabilities and seniors. 

“Why should the city gift property to serial abusers of people with disabilities and the economically vulnerable?” Hope said. “Alden Management and Alden Foundation share the same office, the same executives, the same family, and I would venture the same values.” 

Executive director of the Alden Foundation Beth Demes who presented the proposal clarified the Alden Foundation is a nonprofit whereas Alden Management Services is for-profit and the foundation does not develop or operate nursing homes. 

An application is pending approval with the Chicago Housing Authority to obtain the land. If approved, the foundation will acquire the acre of land for $1 using tax credits.

Howard and Ashland Development mock-up is set to have 81 apartments and two wings for senior living and artists. | Courtesy Beth Demes/Alden Foundation

The housing will have two wings. One for the senior living center and the other for the artist’s space in the five-story building. 

“I’m ready to support the Howard/Ashland proposal and the city’s work to make it happen,” said Rogers Park resident Michael J. Harrington who attended the presentation.  

He said he supported it because Alden and Artspace were transparent with their answers, including the “relationship between the Alden entities.” 

Harrington added that the individuals living in the new development are adults and are not relying on the Alden Foundation to provide nursing care like other Alden facilities.  

Alden Courts of Shorewood, 700 W. Black Rd, faced a lawsuit after resident Betty Stukel died in 2018 from renal failure, dehydration and a urinary tract infection due to negligence according to the lawsuit filed by the family. The defendants have not filed a legal brief as of Dec. 10. 

“We should note that this proposal is for adults who are more than able to make decisions for themselves, who can sign a lease, who can pay their rent and who can take care of themselves,” Harrington said. 

Demes said this is the foundation’s first attempt at developing LGBTQ friendly affordable housing for seniors, but there are other affordable senior living developments around the Chicago Metropolitan area. 

She described Rogers Park as a “creative community” and said this project will build community engagement by supporting artists’ work on display along with seniors by bringing in local schools to work with them.

Real estate broker and developer in Rogers Park Al Goldberg said he does not support the plan because he believes the foundation does not need an entire acre of land to build 81 apartments and could make better use of the land by adding 150 more units.

“The present proposal… of primarily low-income housing is not going to provide the economic boom to this neighborhood to stimulate more housing, renovations and development,” Goldberg said, “[Or] stimulate commercial stores and businesses to locate and open businesses on our street.” 

Rent will range from $358 to $1,400 per month according to the developers and four of the 81 apartments will be market-rate. Twelve apartments will be set aside for seniors allowing them to pay 30% of their income for rent with a housing voucher. 

“The neighborhood deserves a stronger and more ambitious development that will provide more disposable income to be spent on Howard Street …” Goldberg said. 

One of the goals the foundation has is building a “sense of community” Demes said and having 200 units would hinder it.

Directer of economics and community development of the 49th Ward Torrence Gardner said some of the concerns his office is taking into consideration are people’s fears of not receiving low income and affordable housing even though there is preexisting subsidized housing and the lack of community input since the foundation’s application for the land was quickly processed.

However, Gardner said he likes the idea that the foundation plans to coordinate with Howard Brown Center to provide LGBTQ services, support and health care.

“It’s appropriate to also evaluate the proposal in terms of the Alden Foundation’s track record with its current affordable housing projects,” Harrington said. 

The 49th Ward office can influence the final decision by sharing their concerns with the Dept. of Housing, but ultimately the decision rests with the Dept. of Housing, Gardner said. 

 If approved, construction is scheduled to start spring 2021 and predicted to be move-in ready by summer 2022. 

“Rogers Park can do a lot better…There are plenty of other affordable housing partners with legitimate community engagement credentials,” Hope said.

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