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Two major new affordable housing developments are planned for Peoria's South Side. Here are the details

A rendering of one of the building concepts which could make up the new Churchview Garden Homes, a 48-unit scattering of duplexes and townhomes on what is now vacant land along S. Shelley and S. Sumner.
Pivotal Building Partners
Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission
A rendering of one of the building concepts which could make up the new Churchview Garden Homes, a 48-unit scattering of duplexes and townhomes on what is now vacant land along S. Shelley and S. Sumner.

Planning is in the "very preliminary" stages for two new large-scale affordable housing developments on Peoria's near South Side.

That's according to Jane Genzel, executive director of the Peoria Opportunities Foundation. She will ask the Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission at next Thursday's meeting for rezoning and special uses with waivers under six agenda items related to these projects.

Genzel said conversations about new residential development on the South Side began about a year ago, after 30 new rental homes were constructed on the East Bluff. The foundation was also a partner with the city of Peoria, LISC, and other agencies assisting eleven families in purchasing their first homes as part of a neighborhood revitalization project.

"What I kept hearing was, why aren't you doing is this on the South Side neighborhood? Over and over again, we need this done in the South Side," she said.

That led to conversations this past summer with Ohio-based Pivotal Housing exploring the possibility of new housing developments on the South Side. Genzel directed them towards the South Side, where the city has already laid some groundwork for revitalization efforts.

Five of the items on Tuesday's agenda are related to the proposed Churchview Garden Homes, a 48-unit scattering of new townhouses and duplexes intended to mesh into the existing neighborhood around St. Ann's Catholic Church and the Garden of Hope.

"It's a neighborhood with a whole lot of vacant lots that could use some infill housing," Genzel said.

The city's land banking program makes it easier for developers to group those lots together and embark on larger-scale projects. The Churchview Garden Homes would use essentially all of the vacant land in the 900 block of S. Shelley and S. Sumner not currently occupied by St. Ann's Garden Garden of Hope.

"A lot of the rentals that people can rent is not quality housing, and there are many people that want to rent and don't want to own a home. And this gives them the opportunity to continue living on the South Side, in a much better quality home than what they might be living in right now," Genzel said.

The second development is the 60-unit, four-story MacArthur Senior Flats. The nearly $15 million project directly fronting MacArthur Highway across the street from Martin Luther King Jr. Park would provide ADA-accessible affordable housing for people aged 55 and older. The building would be located within the MacArthur Corridor plan area.

"While it is taller than its neighbors, the 4-story design will serve as beacon that development in the South Village is moving forward, and in this case, upward," read a planning document for MacArthur Senior Flats.

Genzel said nothing is guaranteed at this point, even if the zoning changes are approved. The projects would be funded by the Illinois Housing Development Authority through a competitive grants process. Grant applications are due in February 2023, with award announcements slated for next May.

"In applying for the funding, we have to show that these lots are buildable, and so that's what the zoning at this point is for," she said.

If that funding is awarded in May, Genzel said construction likely wouldn't begin until 2024 at the earliest.

The ultimate goal is to bring people back to a part of the city that's suffered staggering population declines over the past several decades.

"In order to have more economic development, more commercial development, you have to have people who will use the services or buy whatever is in the commercial development. You have to have the people present in order for the economic development to happen, she said.

"We've seen this in the East Bluff, that completing housing has been the catalyst for a group of people together to work towards building relationships so that we can work on additional projects."

Updated: November 28, 2022 at 3:23 PM CST
The Planning and Zoning meeting is on Thursday, Dec. 1.
Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.