East Chicago senior center on track; local hiring lags

2012-08-16T00:00:00Z East Chicago senior center on track; local hiring lagsSteve Zabroski Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 16, 2012 12:00 am  • 

EAST CHICAGO | A new residence center for senior citizens in the North Harbor area is on track for completion this year, but with few city residents involved in its construction.

An agreement signed last year by The Community Builders Inc., a Boston-based nonprofit coordinating the North Harbor revitalization work, pledged compliance with a city ordinance mandating that 50 percent of workers on the $5 million project be local residents.

So far though, just 14 of about 100 people at the site live in East Chicago, Will Woodley, project manager for Community Builders, told the City Council on Monday night, actually closer to 15 percent.

"We had a couple issues come up," Woodley said.

Of union workers in the primary trades — concrete, plumbing and electrical — all those who live in the city already were working elsewhere, Woodley said, and declined to move when the senior citizen center openings were posted at their respective locals.

The council last year approved creation of a tax incentive district along Broadway to assist Community Builders with financing the senior center after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rejected the planned use of $1.2 million in federal funds for the project.

In creating the district, the council also demanded a memorandum of understanding with the developer that local workers would be used in its construction.

Woodley said Monday that more East Chicago residents would be participating as the project moves toward its scheduled December finish.

"We've definitely made a lot of progress in how we handle resumes," Woodley said, by partnering with the city's Human Resources Department, Ivy Tech Community College's apprenticeship program and the state-coordinated Indiana Plan.

In the finishing phases — drywall, painting and landscaping — a higher percentage of local residents will have jobs, Woodley said.

The project, the latest phase of the so-called Northtown Village development, includes a 56-apartment building for seniors in the 2300 block of Broadway with off-street parking overlooking Callahan Park between Pulaski and Alder Streets.

Community Builders, along with Hispanic Housing Development Corp. of Chicago, built 125 townhomes in the Main Street-Broadway area over the past seven years as part of an urban renewal effort using federal funds and tax credit sales on top of an $11 million investment by the city in street, infrastructure and park improvements.

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