Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted today joined with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, Congressman Mike Quigley, Alderman Tom Tunney, State Representative Sara Feigenholtz, and other friends and supporters to open Town Hall Apartments, the region’s first LGBTQ-friendly, affordable senior housing development.
“Town Hall Apartments is a safe, welcoming and affordable place for seniors to call home in a community that embraces and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation,” said Michael Goldberg, Executive Director of Heartland Housing, a division of Heartland Alliance, the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest. “Affordable housing is critical to the success of any city. Town Hall shows how good design, development and collaboration can fulfill a critical need while improving the surrounding neighborhood.”
Town Hall Apartments is located at 3600 N. Halsted Street in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the heart of Chicago’s vibrant LGBTQ community. The $23.7 million, 79-unit building provides housing for seniors 55 years old or older. Because all units are subsidized, rent will be no more than 30% of a given resident’s income.
As a testament to the need, Heartland Housing received more than 400 applications to live at Town Hall. All 79 units have been rented for the coming year.
Center on Halsted will offer resident- and community-based services for seniors living in the building, as well as expand and relocate its existing Senior Services program to the first floor of the building.
“Town Hall Apartments directly addresses the disparities amongst our LGBTQ older adults,” said Modesto “Tico” Valle, CEO of Center on Halsted, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ community center. “This generation lives in isolation and experiences housing and healthcare discrimination more frequently and proportionally than their straight counterparts. With more than 50,000 seniors who identify as LGBTQ in the Chicagoland area, Town Hall will act as a model, both locally and nationally to address these issues.”
Heartland Housing was the lead developer for the building and will provide on-site management. Heartland currently manages 14 affordable housing communities and has developed nearly 1,850 affordable homes throughout the Midwest.
Eva Skye, a senior program participant at Center on Halsted since 2008, lives on a fixed income and could only afford a room in a single room occupancy building, where she felt unsafe and unwelcome. When she learned about Town Hall, she jumped at the opportunity.
“I don’t have to worry about my safety anymore,” said Skye. “I feel at home. Everyone has embraced me for being myself. Some say moving into a senior living community is the end of the line, but for me it’s just the beginning.”
The Town Hall police station was a symbol of police discrimination against the surrounding gay community during the 1970s and 80s. Beginning in the 1990s, however, the Chicago Police Department established an LGBTQ liaison to improve relations in the neighborhood.
“We often hear that history repeats itself. Today we see that history can also correct and redeem itself. What was once a symbol of fear is now a place of inclusion, expression and community,” said Goldberg.
Identifying a need
Town Hall Apartments is the culmination of nearly a decade of research, advocacy and community relations. In 2005, Heartland Alliance conducted a research study of Chicago’s LGBTQ senior community to determine the need for an amenity-rich LGBTQ-friendly affordable housing development. Heartland worked with local aldermen to identify a workable location, and later worked with city, state and federal agencies to identify and secure solid financing.
In 2012, the City of Chicago selected Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted to develop the former Town Hall police station site. In 2013, the Chicago City Council transferred the land over to the Center and Heartland and construction began. “Reclaiming this site is significant for our Stonewall trailblazers,” said Valle. “The Town Hall police station, once a site of fear for LGBTQ individuals, has now been given back to the community and is testament to changing times, popular opinion, and our supportive partnerships.”
Sustainable design, historic preservation
Heartland Housing worked closely with seniors during the design process to better understand the needs of potential residents. These conversations clarified the importance of common and outdoor spaces, a strong connection with the rest of the neighborhood, an interest in maintaining social activity and physical fitness during the aging process, and the sensitivity required regarding property management for transgender residents.
Designed by Gensler and built by Power Construction, LLC, Town Hall Apartments blends the “old” with “new” by incorporating an existing historic façade and variegated color palette into its design. Large, colorful mosaic walls welcome residents and guests in the main lobby and at all elevator banks. Each floor features a different wall color that accents the flooring patterns. Town Hall Apartments is expected to achieve LEED Silver level for its many sustainable elements, including high-efficiency fixtures and appliances, building materials with high (over 20 percent) recycled content, a green roof, and an energy efficient heating and cooling system.
Built in 1907, the Town Hall police station officially became a Chicago landmark in September 2013. According to the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, the building “is significant as a finely designed Classical Revival style police station. Distinguished by its symmetrical façade arrangement, classically inspired ornament, and distinctive copper cornice, this well-preserved police station exemplifies the influence of Classicism on the architecture of government and public buildings in Chicago in the early twentieth century.”
The facility has 30 studios and 49 one-bedroom apartments (79 units total). In addition, the building has 4,450 square feet of ground floor commercial space, 20 covered car parking spaces, and dedicated parking spaces for bicycles. Amenities include ENERGY STAR appliances, security cameras, high-speed Internet, and on-site laundry facilities.
Heartland Housing and Center on Halsted leveraged Low Income Housing Tax Credits, the City of Chicago HOME Investment Partnerships Program, equity from the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit and an Energy Efficiency Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The City of Chicago also donated the former police station and land to the project. The Chicago Housing Authority provided 79 project-based vouchers, which enable those with even the lowest of incomes to afford to live in the building.
The project enjoys generous support from Citi Community Capital, the National Equity Fund, Enterprise Community Partners, the Illinois Department of Human Services, and LISC Chicago.
Heartland Alliance is the leading anti-poverty organization in the Midwest and believes that all of us deserve the opportunity to improve our lives. Each year, we help ensure this opportunity for more than one million people around the world who are homeless, living in poverty, or seeking safety. Our policy efforts strengthen communities; our comprehensive services empower those we serve to rebuild and transform their lives. For more information, visit: www.heartlandalliance.org.
Heartland Housing, Inc. is a community housing development organization, which facilitates the development of people through the preservation and creation of affordable and supportive housing with a priority in meeting the needs of homeless persons and families, very low-income individuals, and persons with chronic disabilities. More at: www.heartlandhousing.org.
Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s most comprehensive community center dedicated to building and strengthening the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. More than 1,000 community members visit the Center every day, located in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood. For more information, visit: www.centeronhalsted.org.