CHA is open for business: Boss defends Chicago Fire lease, says agency is open to more ‘public-private’ deals

CHA Chief Executive Tracey Scott said partnerships with entities like the Fire are vital to providing the mixed-income housing needed to help public-housing residents thrive.

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Chicago Housing Authority CEO Tracey Scott speaks during the “Take Flight College Send-Off” at the United Center on Aug. 2, 2022.

Chicago Housing Authority CEO Tracey Scott.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

The Chicago Housing Authority is open for business.

The agency’s boss on Thursday defended her decision to lease Near West Side land to the Chicago Fire soccer team and went a step further, saying the agency is open to more deals with businesses.

CHA CEO Tracey Scott said those partnerships are vital to providing the mixed-income housing needed to help public-housing residents thrive.

“To fulfill our mission, we have to innovate, be creative with new financing tools and form public-private partnerships, because the federal government does not write a check big enough for all that we want or need in Chicago,” Scott told an audience at a City Club of Chicago luncheon.

The CHA gets 95% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Scott defended the 40-year lease with the Chicago Fire, signed in early March, as a “rare opportunity for CHA to reactivate former urban land on the West Side that sat vacant for nearly 20 years.” The land is at the former site of the ABLA Homes, near Roosevelt Road and Ashland Avenue.

A rendering of the planned Chicago Fire soccer team’s new West Side training facility.

A rendering of the planned Chicago Fire soccer team’s new West Side training facility.

City of Chicago

The Fire deal will funnel $48 million in much-needed resources to the CHA for repairs and renovations of nearby buildings, she said. According to the lease, which Scott said enshrined the Fire’s community contributions, the Fire pays $8 million up front, with yearly rent of $800,000, with increases in future years.

The Fire also agreed to provide jobs and career training for nearby residents, which Scott said were “key to social and economic mobility.”

Deals like that will be vital to the CHA’s future, Scott said.

They are also key to moving toward the mixed-income model and away from the old model that Scott called a “mistake of concentrating poverty” or “concentrated disadvantage.”

“When someone says innovation, first thing you think is public housing, right? Well I’m here to testify that innovation is our future. And it’s not just about money. The partnerships are critical. So while the federal money contributes, and we can leverage that, we rely on the talent and creativity of our local development partners,” Scott said.

Scott also said CHA has benefited from its business partners in other deals.

Related Midwest is currently rehabbing nearly 200 units at the CHA’s Roosevelt Square, also at the former site of ABLA Homes.

CHA announced in early March it would begin a $145 million rehab of two West Side senior buildings, the Irene McCoy Gaines Apartments and Albany Terrace Apartments, with partner Michaels Development.

“These partnerships enable most of the projects that we do because it’s usually easier to save a building than build new,” Scott said. “Our priority has been preserving the buildings we have and partnering on other neighborhood developments.”

Scott also unveiled plans to build on long-vacant land at Cabrini Green.

The area already has 3,500 mixed-use units. The CHA plans to hire an urban planner for two future developments, the Oak and Larrabee and Parkside V, which should be under construction by 2024, according to a CHA spokesperson.

A slide from CHA CEO Tracey Scott’s presentation, which mentioned plans for Cabrini Green.

A slide from CHA CEO Tracey Scott’s presentation, which mentioned plans for Cabrini Green.

Provided

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