Parkway Gardens affordable housing complex put up for sale

Former first lady Michelle Obama lived in Parkway Gardens before it was turned into 694 units of affordable housing with federally subsidized rents.

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A mother walks with a young child into the Parkway Garden Apartment complex in the 6400 block of Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood.

Parkway Gardens Apartments has been put up for sale.

Sun-Times file

Parkway Gardens, one of the biggest and most notorious affordable housing complexes in Chicago, is up for sale.

Related Midwest, the real estate and development firm that owns the sprawling property in Woodlawn, is seeking a buyer for 694 apartments spread among nearly three dozen buildings. The 13-acre campus stretches from 63rd to 65th streets between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Calumet Avenue.

The most prominent marketing feature for prospective buyers is a contract with federal housing authorities that ensures subsidized rent for years to come.

What’s not mentioned: the gun violence that’s troubled Parkway Gardens and the surrounding area for years. A portion of King Drive along Parkway Gardens known as “O Block” — a reference to a gang member who was killed nearby — was once the most dangerous block in the city.

Related’s deal to acquire Parkway Gardens in 2011 included the use of $59.5 million in tax-exempt bonds from the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Additional money included $28.8 million in Wells Fargo equity from low-income housing tax credits and $9.9 million in historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Related rehabbed the apartments after the purchase, completing the work in 2014.

A spokeswoman for Related declined to answer questions about the sale but in a written statement said: “During our time managing Parkway Gardens, we are grateful to have been able to provide fundamental upgrades while also partnering with community organizations to bring new programs and services to residents. We are actively seeking new leadership who will build upon our efforts and continue maintaining the property as affordable housing for years to come.”

There’s no asking price in the listing by Affordable Housing Advisors, an affordable housing broker, which posted a video featuring drone footage of the property.

Parkway Gardens Apartments in the 6400 block of Martin Luther King Drive

Parkway Gardens Apartments in the 6400 block of Martin Luther King Drive.

Sun-Times file

Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), whose ward includes Parkway Gardens, said Related has been a terrible owner, describing a multitude of issues ranging from water damage and broken elevators to pests and rodents.

“It’s a headache for them. They couldn’t do nothing with it and didn’t want to be made to look bad because they want to continue working with the city, so they’re trying to get rid of it,” Taylor said.

Related is one of Chicago’s most active developers. Among its projects is a plan to turn 62 acres along the Chicago River on the Near South Side into the city’s 78th community.

Jennifer Maddox, a Chicago police officer who runs Future Ties, a nonprofit that offers after-school programs out of basement space in a Parkway Gardens building, said many residents have lacked basic services and suffered as they waited weeks or months for repairs.

“There’s 3,000 people who live here, most living on about $16,000 a year, many of those people with families, and there’s no social service entity to provide any support,” Maddox said.

“The residents deserve better. And the violence on the property overshadows the good things and the residents who are working hard and doing the things they need to do. So it’s frustrating for them because they get a bad rap just for living over here,” she said.

Corey Brooks, whose New Beginnings Church neighbors Parkway Gardens, said he learned of the potential sale from a Related representative.

“They felt they contributed 10 years of hard work in Parkway, beautifying and making it better, and it’s time to move on,” Brooks said.

Brooks said he expects the community, including many Parkway Gardens residents who are members of his church, will back efforts to ensure the apartment complex ends up in responsible hands.

“I don’t have hard feelings against Related, but I just wish that people who make money in certain areas would do more for the communities where they’re making money,” he said.

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