Home News Owners say federal grant will bring improvements to Lakeside Tower

Owners say federal grant will bring improvements to Lakeside Tower

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A $9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to improve Lakeside Tower in Waukegan may make significant inroads into the $20 million ownership promised to invest, but it will not happen immediately.

Ernst Valery, a member of Lakeside Tower’s ownership group, said Friday learning of the grant is only the first step toward using it to improve the property, which was in need of a lot of work when his organization bought it in July.

“We’ll be working with them to make sure we’re using the grant money appropriately,” he said. “We’ll be looking at the scope of the work together. It has to happen soon. The building will be more climate-resilient.”

HUD awarded Lakeside Tower a $9 million grant on May 21 in Cincinnati as part of a 12-property, $67 million nationwide appropriation to support improvements for energy-efficient and energy-resilient renovations to housing for low-income people.

Purchasing the property in July as part of a transaction ending litigation between the city of Waukegan and previous ownership, Valery’s group committed to invest $20 million, which included new kitchens and bathrooms among other improvements.

Along with the $9 million from HUD, Valery said he is working with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to obtain low-income tax credits to fund the improvements as well. The process is ongoing.

“We’re taking care of the life-safety issues and making sure the building is habitable,” he said. “We have four maintenance workers working there all day, every day. There is a noticeable difference.”

Life-safety issues are ongoing. Valery said they include a new roof, ongoing maintenance of elevators and renovating bathrooms in the most rundown situations. Approximately 40 of the 150 apartments in the 14-story building have had some attention.

Tenants like Adriana Williams — an eight-year resident — said Friday she has not seen a noticeable difference in the nearly yearlong stewardship of new owners. Only one of the two elevators is working.

“I’ve not noticed much change except making the lobby more presentable,” she said. “Only one elevator is working. They moved my cousin from the 14th floor to the third because of the new roof. All they got was a new refrigerator and stove.”

Neither elevator was functioning when Valery’s group took control of Lakeside Tower nearly a year ago. They were both fixed, and he said one was now down once again.

“The old owners promised to fix it,” he said. “They didn’t. We’re taking care of it.”

Part of President Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda, new grants bring the total awarded in the program to $610 million, according to a HUD press release. They will help more than 14,000 dwelling units in properties housing low-income people.

Designed to “advance environmental justice,” the grants will go to disadvantaged communities which are marginalized by underinvestment and overburdened by pollution, according to the release. The other area grant was for $10 million for a property in Joliet.

“The enhancements will make the homes of low-income families safer, more efficient, and healthier to live in.” Ethan Handelman, a deputy assistant HUD secretary, said in the release. “These efforts (will) improve the nation’s affordable housing stock while also supporting efforts to combat climate change.”

Before the new ownership purchased the building, Waukegan Mayor Ann Taylor called the conditions inhumane.



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