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Peoria zoning commission questions proposal for senior housing complex along MacArthur Highway

This lot at the corner of McBean and MacArthur Highway is the proposed site for a new four-story senior living complex. The Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission is deferring a vote on the plans to next year.
Tim Shelley
This lot at the corner of McBean and MacArthur Highway is the proposed site for a new four-story senior living complex. The Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission is deferring a vote on the plans to next year.

The Peoria Planning and Zoning Commission will wait until next year to act on a proposed four-story, 60-unit senior housing complex on Peoria's near South Side.

The commission deferred to January a vote on a special use for the property at McBean and MacArthur, across the street from Martin Luther King, Jr. Park. It's one of two affordable housing proposals in the "very preliminary stages" of planning by the Peoria Opportunities Foundation and Pivotal Housing Partners.

Commissioner Robin Grantham questioned the need for additional senior housing on the South Side when there are already several options.

"When I saw senior housing, you know, I was taken aback a little bit, because because of the concentration, and also because of the data that came out of the last census," Grantham said. "This area has more families with children than they do with just seniors."

Grantham said she supports more housing in the 1st District, but it needs to be the right housing.

Wyllys Mann with Pivotal Housing Partners said the developer opted for senior housing because family units demand more space.

"We couldn't fit the necessary number of units without going up to a five story building, which in consultation with city staff, and just quite frankly, a little bit of common sense, we decided was, in fact, too tall," Mann said.

Mann said they're hoping to land Illinois Housing Development Authority funding for both the MacArthur Flats senior housing, and the nearby Churchview Garden Homes duplexes and townhouses on Shelley and Sumner.

"By submitting two projects for families so close together, we would be setting up an either-or, rather than an either-and," Mann said. "And so our intention was also to try and bring as much investment to Peoria in one round of IHDA funding as possible."

He said a senior project paired with a family project would maximize the chances of landing two awards in this round of funding.

Jane Genzel, the executive director of the Peoria Opportunities Foundation, said the proposals are just a first step.

"I've always said all the housing that we've been involved in developing is the tip of the iceberg in terms of revitalizing a neighborhood and revitalizing multiple neighborhoods," she said.

Neighborhood resident Pamela White said she is "vehemently opposed" to the concept. She said it would place a parking lot behind her house.

"I fear we are off to a bad start. This proposal decreases my property value. And it is contrary to the character of a potentially vibrant neighborhood," she said.

Former 1st District councilmember Clyde Gulley agreed, saying the revitalization of the neighborhood needs a foundation to get started.

"We're gonna have to figure it out. How can we massage this thing in a way that we can get it done? That is not just another set of plans. It's not another conceptual drawing. But it is actually something that we as a community can see built in our lifetime," Gulley said.

Grantham urged Genzel and Mann to gather more community input to gauge the demand for senior housing on the site. Commissioner Richard Unes also said the developers should go back and study some of the previous plans designed for the area before moving forward.

The proposal is set to come back at the Planning and Zoning Commission's January meeting.

Several items related to the Churchview Garden Homes family housing development received approval from the commission. The 48-unit mix of townhouses and duplexes would fit into the vacant lots around St. Ann's Catholic Church and the Garden of Hope.

"In Peoria, currently, there are over 300 people on the waiting list for units of this type, affordable units at 60% or below a median income. So, you know, that's five or six times the amount of units we are proposing to build," Mann said.

He said they've applied to Section 8 funding from the Peoria Housing Authority. No more than 25% of the units would be covered under project-based vouchers under the current proposal.

Genzel previously told WCBU construction likely couldn't start until 2024 at the earliest with the IHDA set to award its next round of grants in May 2023. Zoning approval is an early step in the grant process.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.