Archer Courts: A Model Rehab

by  

For hundreds of CHA residents who have been promised better living conditions as a result of onsite renovations, there have been reoccurring disappointments. Time goes by and not much upgrading has taken place in Ickes, Dearborn Homes, the Ida B. Wells extension and many other developments.

On the other hand, Archer Courts, located at Cermak Road and Archer Avenue, has been renovated from A to Z and presents a stunning picture of just what can be done to change poor housing conditions into tip-top, safe, comfortable dwellings. My initial visit had me in awe from the moment I arrived on the grounds.

Unlike many developments in Chicago, Archer Courts is designated as a “city-state” development, which means that funding and oversight of the development is done by both the Chicago Housing Authority and the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

My contact person was Katrina Herring, an Archer Courts resident and tenant patrol captain who spoke with enthusiasm and candor as she graciously took me on an extensive tour of the buildings.

    Residents’ Journal:: I realize there have been some internal changes beside the renovations. So can you tell me how many black families live here?
    Katrina Herring: Not many. We were the majority, but that has changed.
    RJ: What’s the present race ratio?
    KH: 85 percent Asian, 12 percent African American, with 3 percent other, Caucasian and Indian.
    RJ: Are there any vacancies?
    KH: One one-bedroom. We cater to in-house residents first.
    RJ: How well do the different ethnic groups get along?
    KH: Fairly well. Sometimes children and elderly have differences, that’s all.
    RJ: About how many residents are elderly?
    KH: A lot of elderly. There are 107 in all.
    RJ: How do you feel about the rehabilitation of the buildings?
    KH: It’s very good because things were so bad …they were going to have to rehab or the residents would have to move on with their lives. When you needed work orders done, usually there were no parts available. The cabinets were all old and barely usable. They needed new elevators. The old ones simply did not work.
    RJ: How did they manage to keep the residents content during the rehabilitation’s long duration, from January 1999 to August of 2001?
    KH: During the rehabbing, the residents were assisted in moving from their apartments to vacant ones. During the days there was hospitality extended in certain areas that included a television with VCR, comfortable furniture, and even a place where you could come in and take a shower.
    RJ: Did residents have any input in the rehabilitation process?
    KH: Yes! Some of us who were able negotiated a contract with the new owners of the property, Community Housing Partner Development Corporation, a group headed up by five lawyers that’s located at 36 South Wabash. As we did the moving and packing, they supplied the boxes and other materials and equipment.
    RJ: Did you get paid?
    KH: Yes, not minimum wages, but closer to scale. We worked in 147 units from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. In the 2 bedrooms apartments, we moved items from room to room. For the three bedroom apartments, we had to move the residents to an already rehabbed apartment of the same size. The residents still have in-house Section 8 status. They also get utility credit through ComEd. For one bedroom, [the credit is] $60, two bedrooms it’s $75 and for three bedrooms it’s $90.
    RJ: What were some of the largest replacement items involved in the rehab?
    KH: For one, they redid the whole plumbing system. And as you can see from the outside, they replaced the old open air tiers with new, enclosed curtain walls. Now there is central air conditioning. In the winter time the enclosed tiers are heated and in the summer our blocking pane keeps them cool. However, a cooling center is still available. RJ: Tell me about any other welcome additions to better living for the residents.
    KH: We have an onsite Wellness Center in the extension building, with an onsite nurse from Mercy Hospital. There’s a Computer Learning Center where we used to have only seven computers, but through a grant from Hewlett Packard, we now have twenty along with three printers, a digital camera and color photo printer.
    RJ: Who works with the residents to teach computer literacy?
    KH: They sent experts to this site to train two of us residents to assist and train others.
    RJ: Do you have a laundry facility?
    KH: Yes! We have cleanest, brightest, most convenient laundry room ever. It is one of the best reasons for living here.

Our next move was for this reporter to get a good look at specialized security measures built in with the rehab. Going outside, I noticed loudspeakers and cameras attached to the walls along the buildings. How did they work, I asked Herring.

KH: If there are ever illegal activities going on, a loud verbal warning is sounded that says, “You are performing an illegal action. You have a few minute to leave the premises. We are taking pictures now and we are calling the police.”

The elevators have cameras mounted near the ceilings which deliver the same message when illegal activity occurs on the elevators. The cameras are running at all times. For additional security, visitors must be known by the residents and buzzed in through the front entry way. For fire safety, there are fire extinguishers at each end of each tier on each floor. Also, there is a special lighting system along the indoor walkways.

The East Lake Management Development Corp. manages the property. Phillip Chin is the manager’s name and he helped me meet one of the long time Asian residents for an interview and pictures.

Her name is Shohan Wuen. Even though Mr. Chin had to translate the language between us, she was very charming and smiled a lot. She is a senior citizen.

    Residents’ Journal:: Did you live here through the rehabilitation?
    Shohan Wuen: Yes. It’s a big improvement. I like it.
    RJ: Do you like living in a multi-racial situation?
    SW: Yes. I’m good with that.
    RJ: Do you use the computer lab?
    SW: No!
    RJ: Do you have children here?
    SW: No. I have three adult children who live in other places. There are nine grandchildren. RJ: What size is your apartment? How long have you lived here?
    SW: One bedroom. Since September, 1994.
    RJ: How do you like the new curtain wall?
    SW: I like it. It’s nice and clean. It keeps the wind and dirty elements out. Now there’s no snow or rain at my door when I open it to go out.
    RJ: Do you have any problems living here?
    SW: No. I’m happy here. I don’t plan to move. I can go around close by and get groceries and other things I need.
    RJ: Thank You Mrs. Wuen.

The whole rehabilitation of Archer Courts Apartments is truly intriguing.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Categories: Uncategorized