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City cash offered for Rosenwald Apartments rehab

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has stepped up with a complex incentive offer to help developers rehabilitate the historic Rosenwald Apartments at 4600 S. Michigan.

The package, introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, includes $25 million in tax-increment financing. It would support a $110 million gut rehab.

The massive building at 4600 S. Michigan covers a full city block and includes a two-acre private courtyard. The Rosenwald would be converted to 239 apartments for senior or families on lower incomes. Some of the building’s street frontage would become retail space.

“The Rosenwald has a long and storied history,” Emanuel said, “but the city’s support for its comprehensive rehabilitation will ensure its best days are yet to come.”

The property is on the National Register of Historic Places but has been vacant since 2000. Its owner is a partnership led by Landwhite Developers LLC.

Emanuel also would issue $58.6 million in federally tax-free revenue bonds on the developers’ behalf. Other backing would include $34.2 million in low-income housing tax credits, a $5 million federal grant from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, $2.8 million in other tax credits and the donation of five adjacent city-owned lots, valued at $155,000. The lots would be used for parking.

The project has the strong support of Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) but has been criticized by some Rosenwald neighbors, who contend it would bring seniors and children into a dangerous area. They also argue the area lacks good schools to serve the children.

The building opened in 1929 as a project of former Sears, Roebuck & Co. president Julius Rosenwald, who thought of it as a new model of “work force housing” that encouraged neighborly interaction and provided private outdoor play space.

It used to contain 451 apartments.