Published January 21st, 2022 at 12:30 PM2 minute read
By Kevin Collison
A $100 million proposal that would have added 385 apartments next to the planned streetcar stop at Main and Armour is dead after the City Council rejected funding considered key to including affordable housing.
Mac Properties had proposed renovating the US Bank building at Main and Armour and the nearby New Yorker apartment building, and build two, mid-rise apartment buildings in what would have been the biggest development to date on the planned streetcar line.
The Council voted 7-5 to accept an amendment by Councilwoman Ryana Parks-Shaw, effectively killing the deal.
There is no alternative plan and the defeat calls into question whether Chicago-based Mac will continue its major investment in Midtown that’s renovated dozens of buildings and added thousands of apartments over the last decade.
Mac had sought $10.5 million in a cash subsidy over 20 years for its Armour and Main plan. It would have come from part of the surplus revenues generated by the Midtown TIF established to build the Costco and Home Depot a generation ago.
The development would have included 77 apartments meeting the Council’s new affordable mandates. They require 10 percent of units to be affordable, 70 percent of median income, and 10 percent “extremely” affordable, 30 percent of median income.
But a majority of Council members, led by Councilwomen Melissa Robinson and Parks-Shaw, were successful in having the portion of the TIF surplus sought by the developer diverted instead to the Housing Trust Fund established in 2018 by the Council.
“We have an opportunity to create more affordable housing, not just in this particular area but throughout the rest of our city,” Parks-Shaw said.
Councilwoman Katheryn Shields said the Mac funding plan had been negotiated with Mayor Quinton Lucas, City Manager Brian Platt and Councilman Eric Bunch, who’s district includes the development site, over the past year.
“I support a housing trust fund,” Shields said.
“We have what I would call a very good bird in the hand and we have a developer that has made tremendous improvements to our Midtown area from Main to Troost.”
The multiple apartment projects developed by Mac have been well received in the marketplace with a 96 percent occupancy rate. The firm is currently building a 340-unit development at the intersection of Troost and Armour.
Bunch said complaints by tenants helped persuade him to oppose the Mac plan.
“Over the last few days I’ve heard from hundreds of constituents, dozens of whom are residents of Mac Properties,” he said. “While not all bad, many are not good…that brings me real concerns.”
Bunch also believed the development incentive proposal should have been reviewed by an independent consultant.
The Mac proposal however, still would have gone through a financial review by the Planned Industrial Expansion Authority. In addition to the Midtown TIF funds, the developer had been planning to seek property tax abatements from the PIEA.
Bunch, Parks-Shaw and Robinson were joined by Council members Kevin O’Neill, Dan Fowler, Brandon Ellington and Andrea Bough in voting for the amendment killing the deal. Mayor Lucas was absent.
Peter Cassel, Mac director of community development, issued a statement following the vote:
“We appreciate the time and consideration members of the council gave to our proposal, we respect the decision of the council, and remain proud and enthusiastic members of the community.”
In voting for the amendment, Bunch highlighted the continuing struggle the Council is having meeting demands by affordable housing activists in the city.
“We have been operating without a rudder,” Bunch said.
“We say we want affordable housing but we’re not delivering on it. In this case we have 77 units of affordable housing we’re saying no to.
“If we say we want the (affordable) set aside, then we’ve got to stop moving goal posts. We have to come up with a way to do it.”