Posted on Monday, March 15, 2004

East St. Louis' Emerson Park neighborhood lands second housing development

   EAST ST. LOUIS - A new housing development will rise out of an empty field in the Emerson Park neighborhood of East St. Louis when Central City Apartments begins construction later this summer.

   Upon completion, the project will consist of 84 apartments built as duplexes and triplexes. Development costs will total approximately $13.5 million.

   The project will be developed by Chicago-based East Lake Management & Development Corp. According to Edgar Flagg, development manager for East Lake and project manager for Central City Apartments, this is only the beginning for East Lake's plans in East St. Louis.

   "Central City Apartments is just the first phase," he said. "We are planning to develop approximately 600 units in various locations all over the city."

   The Central City project is being developed on seven acres of vacant land that is currently owned by the East St. Louis Housing Authority and the city of East St. Louis; the site is adjacent to the Emerson Park MetroLink Station, near the intersection of Interstate 64 and I-55/70.

   Most of the financing for the project is in place and is coming from several different sources. East Lake has received an affordable housing tax credit allocation from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Flagg said, which will generate $8.5 million when sold to an equity partner.

   The East St. Louis Housing Authority is providing a grant of $3.325 million. The Federal Home Loan Bank will provide a loan of $500,000 and East Lake will take out a mortgage for $350,000. The city will make $800,000 worth of infrastructure improvements surrounding the project.

   The 84-unit development will include 35 public housing units, 40 tax credit units and nine market-rate units. There will be two four-bedroom, 29 three-bedroom, 37 two-bedroom and 16 one-bedroom units.

   "The affordable units are for people making 60 percent or less of the area's median income," he said.

   According to Flagg, the project should be completed by December 2005.

   "We'll competitively select a general contractor after releasing construction documents for bid in late March or early April," he said. "Some units will be available for occupancy by spring or early summer in 2005."

   The East St. Louis Housing Authority conducted a national search in 2003 for a development company to redevelop the property.

   "East Lake was selected after a rigorous evaluation process from four or five firms that responded to a national request for qualification," said Robert Betts, development manager for the authority. "The company has a lot of experience in all kinds of development including residential, office and retail."

   The housing authority has a total of $25 million available to develop new housing, Betts said, and expects to create much more.

   "In the Central City project, we're able to leverage a $13 million development with a $3 million investment. Carrying that through, we should be able to leverage $70 million to $75 million of development throughout the city," he said.

   Central City Apartments is the second major residential development in the Emerson Park neighborhood of East St. Louis over the past three years. Parsons Place, a 174-unit residential development, was completed in 2001 at a cost of nearly $25 million. A second phase is currently being planned.

   Vickie Forby, executive director of the Emerson Park Community Development Corp., welcomes the Central City project.

   "I think it is important for the community and the neighborhood that this particular site is redeveloped into a positive development because for so long it had a negative reputation of drugs and crime," she said. "It was never managed well, and the people who lived there often lived in degraded conditions because of the lack of management and the fact that the site flooded every time it rained."

   East Lake Management & Development Corp. was founded in 1984. The firm has developed projects as diverse as luxury high-rise apartments, office buildings, affordable housing projects and shopping centers. East Lake also manages residential and commercial properties, as well as offering construction management services.