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Corporate Reserves Proposal Hits Affordable Housing Snag

City officials object to removal of affordable housing units from development, question density.

Corporate Reserves Proposal Hits Affordable Housing Snag

Expressing concern over high density and a lack of affordable housing units in the proposed development, city aldermen continued discussion of planned changes until next month.

After listening to a new proposal by representatives from JCF, the project developers, and continued concerns raised by residents who live on adjoining properties, officials continued the conversation until Aug. 13.

The site north of West Main Street and Cardinal Drive was initially planned to be a large office complex with multiple office buildings and parking garages, however with the downturn in the economy and a demand for more housing in the area, the developers opted to erect high-end apartments in downtown St. Charles as opposed to additional office buildings.

In November Schaumburg-based JCF first proposed the idea to build 407 high-end apartments on a portion of the Corporate Reserves property. However, St. Charles residents said the initial proposal packed too much into such a confined space. During that meeting residents and council members expressed concerns, including the number of apartments that would go on the 17 acres set aside for the development. In response to the concerns raised during the public hearing last fall, JCF returned with changes to the development, including a reduction of units from 407 to 331. Additionally all four-story buildings will be reduced to three-story buildings, a reduction of parking spaces from 786 to 526 and nixing the two proposed mixed-use buildings.

Terry Smith, an engineer with BSB, said addressed the concerns raised by council and residents and “made it better.”

Council members did not quite see it that way though. They took umbrage with the developer’s proposal to eliminate the required number of units that would meet the city’s affordable housing standards and pay a one-time contribution of $50,000 to the city’s Housing Trust Fund. City ordinance requires that 15 percent of units in a multi-family development be set aside as affordable, which would mean that 50 of the units at Corporate Reserve would be held aside for affordable housing. Developers can elect to pay a fee to the trust fund to request that 50 percent of the units meant for affordable housing could be rented at normal rates. The fee is based on square footage of the units. According to city data that fee would be $104,500 per unit in the development, or $2.6 million.

Alderman Ed Bessner said he thought the $50,000 payment was the developer’s way of seeking an inexpensive solution.

Paul Robertson of JCF said the units will be expensive with high end interiors. He said they were told it would be desirable to have affordable housing units on the site.

Alderman Jim Martin said he would not support the development without units set aside for affordable housing and a more appropriate fee to the trust fund.

Alderwoman Rita Ann Payleitner said she knows people who sit on the housing commission will never accept that a development is “too good” for affordable housing.

Several aldermen said they weren’t sure the required zoning should be changed to allow the residential development. They questioned whether or not the office space from the original proposal will be needed when the economy turns around.

JCF already built office buildings on an adjacent part of the larger Corporate Reserves area that are currently full.

One resident agreed. She asked if the city would end up with “a bunch of half started communities” when the economy improves and there’s a need for more office buildings.

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