New South

Park Boulevard, 47 W 35th St

Park Boulevard rebuilds a neighborhood on former CHA land

The drive south along State Street into the Bronzeville neighborhood used to mean venturing past the striking, modern buildings of the Illinois Institute of Technology toward dilapidated public housing high-rises, which lined State from 35th to 55th streets.

Now, a welcoming beacon stands at the corner of 35th and State: a four-story mixed-use building topped by a tower with a peaked roof. The banner draped across it proclaims the arrival of Park Boulevard, a development of more than 1,300 new-construction homes. About 880 of the new housing units will be built on the 34-acre site where the Chicago Housing Authority’s Stateway Gardens public housing complex once stood, with the rest scattered throughout surrounding neighborhoods.

Park Boulevard is part of the CHA’s 2000 Plan for Transformation, which is replacing dense, segregated public housing high-rises with mixed-income low-rise developments, interspersing CHA replacement units with affordable and market-rate homes.

As part of that plan, a third of Park Boulevard’s units will be leased to former CHA residents. The remainder will be for sale, both at affordable and market rates. The master plan for the community, by Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, calls for low- and mid-rise condominium buildings, townhouses, single-family houses and “flats” with three to six units.

For anyone familiar with the way this piece of the South Side used to look, the changes already have been dramatic. The long stretch of bleak CHA high-rises – once the largest concentration of public housing in the country – is gone. New parks and roads are being constructed, and new houses are taking shape.

The developer behind much of that housing is Stateway Associates, a consortium of builders Mesa Development, Walsh Construction Co., The Davis Group and Kimball Hill Homes. The team worked hard to market the convenience and new identity of this part of Bronzeville, which is close to downtown and good transportation, according to James Miller, CEO of Stateway Associates.

Their pitch made sense to Jonathan Lumley, a 25-year-old Chicago Heights resident, who searched for a home in Chicago for a year before falling for a one-bedroom condo at Park Boulevard. “I had my heart set on it,” he says. The location was the major draw, since Park Boulevard is just a few blocks from IIT, where Lumley is studying project management. He also works throughout Chicagoland as an electrician, so he was pleased that Park Boulevard abuts the Dan Ryan Expressway.

“It’s truly a transit-oriented location,” says Miller, noting that the Chicago Transit Authority’s Green and Red Lines stop blocks away and a new Metra station is under construction across the street. The drive north on Lake Shore Drive to the Loop can be as short as 10 minutes, traffic permitting.

Park Boulevard’s location has other perks too. Miller points out the new Chicago Police Department headquarters just east of the development. While crime rates have dropped steadily in the area during the last 10 years, the new headquarters and an adjacent lot filled with hundreds of police cars might be reassuring for buyers concerned about safety, he says.

And just past the Dan Ryan Expressway, to the west, is U.S. Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox. The Bronzeville neighborhood is the same distance from downtown as Wrigleyville, and while it hasn’t capitalized on its proximity to a ballpark the way that North Side neighborhood has, recent growth has highlighted the potential.

A building boom fueled by substantial private and public investment has gradually gained steam in Bronzeville during the last decade. Legends South is replacing the former Robert Taylor Homes public housing high-rises with a new mixed-income community just south of Park Boulevard. Along with other nearby redevelopment projects ranging from the smaller Jazz on the Boulevard to the massive Arches at Oakwood Shores, these new communities will create more than 7,000 new homes when completed.

Retail is coming, too, including about 17,000 square feet at Park Boulevard. The building on the corner of 35th and State Streets will house a nationally-known coffee shop chain, Miller says, and he is also negotiating with a bank.

Park Boulevard’s first phase of 311 units is under construction, with 211 of these for sale. About 50 percent had been sold at press time, according to Norma Baskin, Park Boulevard’s sales manager.

About 20 percent of units for sale in the first phase are “affordable,” reserved for families making no more than 120 percent of the Chicago metropolitan area’s median income. For a couple to qualify for one of these units, for example, their combined gross income may not exceed $72,350, and a family of four may not earn more than $90,500 total.

The affordable units include one- to three-bedroom condos that range from the $160s to the $260s, Baskins says. Finishes include carpeting, white kitchen appliances, laminate countertops and ceramic kitchen tile. Affordable buyers can upgrade to finishes like hardwood floors and stainless steel appliances, Baskins says.

Market-rate buyers can choose from a range of housing types: condos with one to four bedrooms (simplexes and duplexes), townhouses with two or three bedrooms or single-family houses with four bedrooms. The houses line a rectangular green space, Baskins says. Prices for the market-rate homes range from the $190s to the $680s. Finishes include hardwood floors in living areas, stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and cultured marble vanities in bathrooms. All units at Park Boulevard come with washer and dryer hookups.

Park Boulevard’s second phase of 400 units is slated to break ground in the third quarter of 2008, Miller says.

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