Yo’s truly has been wondering what was taking so long for the latest phases of the Columbia Point development to get underway in Woodlawn, and so has ChiKat, Yo’s Johnny-on-the-spot in that neighborhood. Now Yo’s truly hears that Ald. Arenda Troutman (20th) this week held up the developer’s application in a city committee, demanding that the developer provide a grocery store and “truly affordable housing.”
A Sun-Times story today notes that Troutman’s office previously issued a letter of support for the project, although the alderman denies signing the letter. The article also notes that a prominent backer of the development, Rev. Leon Finney Jr, of The Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, is supporting the aldermanic bid of Troutman’s rival, Willie B. Cochran, in the February 27 election. In the story, Finney is quoted as saying that Troutman directed the developers not to include any retail in the footprint of the site.
Finney’s organization is widely known for its efforts to revitalize Woodlawn. Its latest project is two new phases at Columbia Point, a 200-unit development of single-families, townhouses and three-flats on a vacant site bounded by Englewood and Woodlawn avenues between 62nd and 64th streets.
The project, which sold out a first phase in 2004, is the result of TWO’s collaboration with the non-profit Local Initiatives Support Corporation and for-profit Magellan Development Corporation. Early last year, Yo was told that sales were slated to open at Columbia Point in the fall of 2006, and that 20 percent of the project would be affordable housing.
Troutman’s right when she says that Woodlawn is crying out for retail and affordable housing, but what has she done to achieve that? Troutman has been the ward’s alderman for 17 years, and has presided over the small but significant surge in new construction and rehab projects in the neighborhood over the last few years. She touts the new Keystone Place as a development that will provide affordable housing. But through the recent housing boomlet in Woodlawn, she seems to have done precious little to leverage commercial development for her constituents, in my opinion.