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Demolition of Marion Jones housing delayed until next year

The MariJones Townhomes public housing along Jones Drive is located south east corner Dugdale Road 14th Street North Chicago. |

The Marion Jones Townhomes public housing along Jones Drive is located on the south east corner of Dugdale Road and 14th Street in North Chicago. | Thomas Delany Jr.~Sun-Times Media

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For more information on the redevelopment of Marion Jones, visit and look for a Marion Jones link, coming soon, according to LCHA Executive Director David Northern.

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Updated: October 7, 2013 4:56PM

Marion Jones, the North Chicago public housing project initially slated for demolition this winter, will survive another year thanks to fallout from sequestration, including a 19-percent reduction in money for public housing and slow-down in federal bureaucracy.

Lake County Housing Authority’s oldest public housing community, built in 1961 under a federal push called Urban Renewal, Marion Jones will still fall to the wrecking ball, but not until summer 2014, according to Cindi Herrera, a consultant for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Herrera, along with Atlanta-based developer Benoit Group, which will lead a $37 million redevelopment of the site, and LCHA Executive Director David Northern, met with city leaders and residents this week to give status updates.

“We’re anticipating HUD approval by the end of this month,” Herrera told members of North Chicago Rotary on Tuesday, Aug. 6. “Then we can start the relocation process and individual assessments with each family; talking about where they want to go and what their needs are.”

About 300 people, including 127 children, live in Marion Jones, which stands at the corner of Dugdale Road and 14th Street. Residents “in good standing” will be given housing vouchers they can take anywhere in the country, with relocation expected to begin in September. Families can also opt to stay through the school year, Herrera said. The 125 unit-complex of sturdy, but poorly-insulated attached brick homes, will be systematically emptied and outer buildings will be knocked down first. It will be replaced with 186 mixed-income, multi-family townhome units to be built in a quad configuration and ready for leasing by early 2016.

Former residents, Herrera said, will have “first right of return.”

“But our experience is many families choose not to come back,” Herrera said. “They prefer the voucher because they can choose to go where they want.”

Marion Jones resident Keisha Adams, 31, mother of five, ages 5 to 12, won’t miss her home of five years or the surrounding community, she said, where there are “no jobs” and “no help.” She may move “somewhere south.” Mostly, she will not miss walls so thin, she and her children can hear neighbors having sex.

“You can hear sneezing and coughing two doors down,” she said. “It’s cold in the winter. Cockroaches: I keep them in check, but sometimes I’ve had to fight them off.”

Torian Priestly, executive vice president of the Benoit Group, called the new construction “housing that will change the attitudes of our residents.” He said it will help create jobs and bring new investment.

“We’ll provide amenities and services that will change the mindset of residents who (will say) ‘Hey. We have some quality things in our community.’”

Other Benoit Group properties, Priestly said, include clubhouses with community, exercise and computer rooms, walking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas, ornamental fencing, and employment and child care services for residents.

Northern, who said LCHA plans to enhance the family self-sufficiency services it already provides, alluded to his agency’s struggle to maintain security in the face of persistent problems like loitering, drug dealing and gunfire at Marion Jones. The new development, he said, will be a “no tolerance type of situation.”

“Individuals who move in will have to understand this is decent, safe and sanitary housing.”

Financing for the new development will come through a system of tax credits, bonds and “soft” subsidies obtained through partnership with HUD, the Illinois Housing Development Authority and private mortgage lenders and investors.

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