LAKEVIEW — An affordable housing nonprofit can move forward with plans to overhaul a four-story apartment building and construct more low-cost units nearby.
Mercy Housing received City Council approval Wednesday to renovate its Belray Apartments building, 3150 N. Racine Ave., and add more apartments in a new, four-story companion building along Belmont Avenue.
The plans will increase the Belray Apartments’ units from 70 to 86. Every apartment will be priced affordably, said Steve Friedland, an attorney from Applegate & Thorne-Thomsen.
Seventy of the two buildings’ units will be rented to people whose income doesn’t exceed 30 percent of the area median income, Friedland said. The other 16 units will serve residents at 50 or 60 percent of the area median income.
“The renovated building will be 100 percent affordable and it will provide housing to individuals who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness,” Friedland said.
Belray is a single-room occupancy building Mercy bought in 1996, Friedland said. The site includes a surface parking lot, which is where the Belray annex will be built.
The Belray is considered a transit-served location because of its proximity to the Belmont Avenue CTA station, said Michael Berkshire, an employee from the Department of Planning and Development.
The project was supported by Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), whose ward encompasses the apartments, and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th), whose ward is directly across the street from the Belray.
However, Tunney questioned during the Plan Commission meeting whether an advertising billboard hanging on the side of the building could be removed during its renovation.
“I hope with this investment that we get rid of that sign, because it is a hazard, in my opinion,” Tunney said.
The sign went up in 2012 or 2013 as a way for Mercy to boost income, Waguespack said.
“But I’m not sure those [signs] are generating the type of revenue that they used to, so that’s something I’d be in favor of, too,” Waguespack said.
Mark Angelini, president of Mercy Housing, said they would revisit whether the sign could be removed.
“I don’t know if the income generated from that is critical to the building’s operation, but we can certainly look into it,” Angelini said. “If we can do it and figure out a way to supplement that income otherwise, I don’t disagree. I think that it does not add to the value and beauty of the building.”
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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