David Roeder of the Sun-Times devote his column today to Wilson Yard:
City ups Wilson Yard subsidy to $52 million
UPTOWN Public now funding a third of development's cost
For the second time in less than a year, city officials Wednesday hiked the public subsidy for the Wilson Yard development in Uptown and now plan to spend at least $52 million on the five-acre site.
Acting on a recommendation from the city's planning department, the City Council elevated the subsidy from a previous commitment of $41.6 million. The public funds represent more than a third of the project's estimated cost of $150.9 million, in contrast to city guidelines that generally limit such subsidies to 20 percent.
Officials said the additional money is needed to rescue a retail and residential project considered vital to Uptown's future. The project has been battered by costly design changes, higher construction prices, loss of initial investors, retailers' nervousness over a proposal to regulate wages at "big box" stores and lately by lenders' reluctance to extend credit.
"We're committed to getting this project done," said planning department spokesman Peter Scales. He noted that as part of the new deal, Wilson Yard developer Peter Holsten has been required to invest more of his own company's money.
Holsten Real Estate Development Corp. will provide an additional $10.5 million in equity, bringing the total to $29.9 million. Holsten will seek $69 million in financing, $20.2 million less than needed under the previous agreement.
The developer did not return calls. Despite years of planning and debate in the community, the project has produced only one concrete change, a new Aldi food store. It replaced an Aldi that was demolished to make room for unrealized parts of the development.
Holsten's agreement with the city calls for a store occupied by Target "or an affiliate thereof" with a 382-space parking garage. Target Corp. has never confirmed plans for the site, but Holsten and Uptown's alderman, Helen Shiller (46th), have repeatedly insisted the discounter is coming.
Planned in later phases are two residential buildings, one with 80 apartments geared to low- and moderate-income families, and the other with 98 units for low- to moderate-income seniors.
The site, a former CTA repair yard, runs along the west side of Broadway between Montrose and Wilson.
Holsten's agreement with the city shows he expects to deliver the apartments at a per-dwelling cost that's 50 percent to 90 percent higher than comparable prices in the market.
Also, documents indicate that the Illinois Housing Development Authority has withdrawn a loan promise of $750,000 for the senior apartments.
The subsidy would come via a tax-increment financing district, which would provide funds from future property taxes that Wilson Yard would generate. The agreement provides that Holsten would get no more than $10.4 million in city help before he completes the Target and a smaller retail building.