Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin’s decision to share tax credits helps deliver senior housing project named after late Ald. JoAnn Thompson

At a grand opening Wednesday for the $26.6M Montclare Senior Residences of Englewood, developer Philip Mappa of M.R. Properties aired the untold story of how Austin’s selflessness helped salvage the project.

SHARE Indicted Ald. Carrie Austin’s decision to share tax credits helps deliver senior housing project named after late Ald. JoAnn Thompson
Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) attends a Chicago City Council meeting, where members used an electronic voting system for the first time, at City Hall, Wednesday morning, March 23, 2022.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th)

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

A developer and Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday praised indicted Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) for sharing the tax credits needed to complete a 102-unit building that will allow senior citizens to live affordably and independently in Englewood.

The $26.6 million project at 64th and Green streets is named after the late Ald. JoAnn Thompson (16th), a beloved figure known for her big heart and fighting spirit who died of heart failure in 2015 at the age of 58.

Thompson had won the admiration of her colleagues and South Side residents alike by overcoming homelessness and alcoholism to win a City Council seat.

On Wednesday, Lightfoot joined local alderpersons at the “grand opening” that was supposed to take place a year ago but was put on hold because of the pandemic.

That’s when developer Philip Mappa of M.R. Properties aired the untold story of how Austin’s selflessness helped salvage the project.

“But for her help, this would not exist. At the time — it was about seven years after it was approved — the city in its infinite wisdom decided that they no longer wanted to build this facility,” Mappa said.

“Ald. Carrie Austin helped us by deferring another one of her developments so the city could apply the tax credits to build this facility.”

Lightfoot said she had never heard that story but was “not surprised.”

Austin’s decision to retire from politics rather than fight the new ward map has made it easier for the Black Caucus to accommodate the loss of more than 85,000 African-American residents over the last decade.

“It’s not a surprise because of the way that she has been selfless in her commitment to community,” Lightfoot told the crowd.

“Whether that community is her immediate one of Roseland and Pullman or whether it is someplace else in the city, she’s been a champion because she understands it’s important to see the vision for what our city can be. So, thank you, Alderman Austin.”

Austin said she shared her tax credits because “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”

“JoAnn ... was saying that this wasn’t gonna be because of the attitudes of the city at the time, I said, `No, that ain’t gonna happen. That project is gonna get done,’” Austin recalled.

“I said, `Just take mine and, that way, it can get done. I’m grateful that God allowed me to have those [tax] credits in order to give it to JoAnn in order for this to be a reality.”

Austin then told the story of how she developed such a close friendship with Thompson.

“I was on my way to the restroom one City Council morning and, as I was passing her, she said, `The Lord said that you will be my mentor.’ And I had to stop and say, `What? Are you sure you’re talking to the Lord because I can’t be your mentor,’ “ Austin said.

“But I’m grateful that the Lord allowed me to be just that .... As Alderman Harris said, anybody that’s in that City Council that needs some help and needs a push, call Carrie.”

Austin wasn’t done lavishing praise. She did the same for Lightfoot.

“Madame Mayor, I don’t care what nobody say. I’m gonna love you `til the day I die. No matter what,” Austin told the mayor.

“I know there are times that people think we are at odds with each other. I don’t know how to be at odds with her. She’s short, but she carries a big stick and don’t mind using it. But I felt the love of a woman that needed somebody to be behind her to let them know you’re not gonna run over this one. And I’m grateful that you’ve allowed me to stand with you.”

Three years ago, Lightfoot bounced Austin as Budget Committee chairman in retaliation for her support of County Board President Toni Preckwinkle over Lightfoot only to hand Austin a consolation prize: chairman of the newly created Committee on Contract Oversight and Equity.

At the time, Lightfoot needed Austin’s support to deliver a City Council reorganization that was the first test of the new mayor’s political strength.

Last summer, Lightfoot pressured Austin to resign that chairmanship after the alderperson pleaded not guilty to charges that she accepted home-improvement bribes — including new kitchen cabinets and granite countertops — from a developer seeking her help in navigating a project through the City Hall bureaucracy.

It wasn’t the first time that Lightfoot and Austin had engaged in a public love fest.

The same thing happened last year when the largest firehouse in Chicago history and the first new multi-apparatus facility in decades opened for service on the Far South Side.

The $30 million, 27,000-square-foot firehouse at 1024 W. 119th St. was a personal and very emotional triumph for Austin, who had campaigned for a new firehouse for 16 years and feared that Lightfoot’s election might bring that crusade to a dead end.

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