The Committee on Housing and Real Estate will take up a slew of mayoral appointments to City boards that oversee low-income and affordable housing, including the appointment of John T. Hooker as the new head of the Chicago Housing Authority Board.

Hooker worked at ComEd for 44 years, finishing his career as executive vice president of legislative and external affairs. He faces a big challenge at CHA as advocates have called on the agency to spend some of its $350 million surplus on housing initiatives. A CHA reform ordinance championed by Ald. Joe Moreno (1) is currently sitting in committee. CHA is the landlord for most of the city’s public housing stock and manager of some Section 8 programs.

Earlier this summer, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he was appointing Eugene “Gene” Jones as the acting CEO of the city’s housing authority, after Michael Merchant stepped down from the position. Jones will be the Authority’s 8th CEO since the public housing agency started its billion dollar Plan For Transformation, which then Mayor Richard M. Daley touted as the largest, most ambitious public housing redevelopment plan in the country. The plan is behind schedule, and CHA has been accused of sitting on undeveloped land and not spending the money allocated for the plan.

Tribune: Emanuel pick for CHA board leader benefited from scholarship program
Sun-Times: Emanuel appoints ex-ComEd VP John T. Hooker as CHA chairman
Crain’s: Emanuel names ComEd veteran to lead CHA board

The Chicago Low-lncome Housing Trust Fund (new appointments)

  • La Toya M. Dixon – an attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration who has managed labor relations for Cook County and Sinai Health Systems.

  • Elise Doody Jones – a community organizer, volunteer manager and small business owner. She is the former treasurer of First Ward First, the independent Democratic political organization Ald. Joe Moreno (1) founded in 2011. She also made an attempt to unseat Ald. Scott Waguespack (32) in the most recent municipal election.

  • Bishop Horace Smith, M.D. – a pastor at the Apostolic Faith Church on Chicago’s South Side, which serves 4,000 parishioners. He is also a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. He spent much of his medical career researching sickle cell anemia and as a hematologist and oncologist.

  • Jennifer Welch – the first deputy commissioner for the Department of Family and Support Services and a former Policy Director in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Much of her career has focused on addressing issues of domestic violence.

Chicago Low-lncome Housing Trust Fund (reappointments)

  • Sol A. Flores – Executive Director of La Casa Norte, a nonprofit in Humboldt Park that serves homeless youth and families. Flores also serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

  • Levoi K. Brown – Managing Director at BMO Harris Bank who specializes in underwriting and analytics on affordable housing transactions. Levoi graduated with a masters from the Booth School of Business, worked at GE, then for five years the community development Urban Partnership Bank.

  • Malcolm Bush – Affiliated Scholar at Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, whose research focuses on community reinvestment and economic development. He is also senior advisor to the International Center for Research and Policy on Childhood at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, was President of the Woodstock Institute, and served as senior vice president of Voices for Illinois Children.

  • Wayne L. Gordon – founding Pastor of Lawndale Community Church and founding President of the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation, which facilitates economic development, education and housing. He is one of the founders of the Lawndale Christian Health Center, a healthcare ministry that sees over 150,000 patients per year.

  • Thomas J. McNulty – President and partner at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP. He has served as president of the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund since its inception in 1989. He teaches and writes about real estate taxes. Before joining the firm, he served as supervisor of the Tax Unit in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office.

  • Kristin K. Nance – Director of the Lewis University Stahl Center for Entrepreneurship who also worked at Roosevelt University in the College of Business. Nance has held City positions before in the South Loop & Near South Community Area and as Director of Economic Development with the Southeast Chicago Development Commission.

Chicago Community Land Trust Board (new appointments)

  • Eva M. Brown – Vice President of Government and Community Relations at U.S. Bank, where she worked with community groups, non-profits, elected officials and government agencies to focus on lending, giving, investments and volunteer efforts. Brown was previously the director of the Access to Capital Program at the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC). She also worked in small business lending at Fifth Third and BMO Harris.

  • Michelle Morales – associate director for the Alternative Schools Network (ASN), a nonprofit that oversees a network of community schools for high school dropouts.

Chicago Community Land Trust Board (reappointments):

  • Patricia Abrams – Executive Director of The Renaissance Collaborative, Inc., which offers housing, supportive services and workforce development to over 300 low income children, youth, adults and seniors in Bronzeville. Abrams is also on the board of the Chicago Rehab Network, a network of nonprofit affordable housing developers.  

  • Joel Bookman –  President of Bookman Associates Inc., a consulting firm that caters to public, private, and nonprofit organizations and businesses in community and economic development, management, planning, and real estate development.

  • Timothy Hughes – Real Estate and Facilities Director for ComEd who oversaw the installation of the communication link between ComEd’s critical substations and the City of Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management Center.

  • Edward H. Jacob – former Executive Director of Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, a nonprofit neighborhood revitalization organization. Jacob’s career has focused on neighborhood lending and community development.

  • Guacolda E. Reyes – Vice President, The Resurrection Project, a 25 year old project founded by churches and concerned neighbors in Pilsen to address blight and crime.

  • William W. Towns – Assistant Vice President of Neighborhood Initiatives at the University of Chicago, charged with leveraging U of C resources to help revitalize nearby communities. He was previously Regional Vice President of Mercy Portfolio Services, under the Mercy Housing Inc. umbrella.

  • Marva E. Williams – Economic Development Director at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Senior Program Officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) of Chicago. She was also Senior VP at the Woodstock Institute from 1996-2007.

  • Jeffrey Wright – Business Banker at the Urban Partnership Bank, whose mission is to create jobs, opportunities and leaders in the black community.

In addition to the Mayoral appointments, the committee is scheduled to approve numerous applications for the sale of city owned land and an intergovernmental agreement with the Chicago Park District regarding the Hadiya Pendleton Park expansion plan.

Hadiya Pendleton Park Expansion Plan – 3rd Ward

The former South Side quarter acre Buckthorn Park playlot was recently renamed after Pendleton, a King College Prep High School student who was fatally shot by local gang members in 2013. Pendleton performed as a drum majorette in President Barack Obama’s second inauguration and Michelle Obama spoke at the high school’s commencement last May.  

The ordinance before the Housing Committee today transfers the adjacent City-owned vacant land at 4323-4329 S. Calumet Ave to the Park District, so they can turn the playlot to a two acre park. Ald. Pat Dowell says Pendleton Park will be outfitted with a new playground, walking path and fitness stations. The Park District is in the process of applying to close a portion of South Calumet Avenue between 43rd and 44th Street to connect parts of the park on the east and west sides of the street. 47th/King Drive Redevelopment Area TIF money is going toward the project.

Read Dunning Park Expansion Plan – 38th Ward

Another park expansion plan on the agenda is related to the Read Dunning Park, located in the similarly-named TIF district. The ordinance before the Housing Committee transfers 7.5 acres of adjacent city owned land to the Park District to help with the $3 million expansion funded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The Park will have a turf field for sports, 93 parking spots and a walking path that encircles the park. Construction is scheduled to be completed by next summer.

Lease Agreement for J. Michael Fitzgerald Apartments –  39th Ward

The Committee will take up an ordinance authorizing a 75 year ground lease agreement between the City and Fort Lauderdale-based Elderly Housing Development & Operations Corporation (EHDOC) to help with the development of the J. Michael Fitzgerald Apartments, an affordable housing development for seniors located within the North Park Village Nature Center.  EHDOC broke ground on the project in August 2012, but due to a lack of federal funds, construction has stalled. It’s the last apartment building to go up in the Planned Development, which includes 527 residential units spread across 3 other four-story buildings.

When completed, the $17.7 million Fitzgerald apartments will include one-bedroom apartments for elderly residents earning up to 60% of the area median income. It’s financed through $10.6 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development’s Section 202 Supportive Housing Development program and $5.3 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Sale of Closed CPS Marconi Elementary School – 28th Ward

United for Better Living Inc. is interested in buying the site of now-closed 6,200 square foot, 55 year-old Marconi Elementary School in West Garfield Park. United for Better Living is affiliated with Allison United Foundation for Better Living, a non-profit founded by the late Corinthians Temple Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Bishop Bennie AllisonRev. David Whittley, Allison’s grandson, is listed as the contact on United for Better Living’s bid. The school is valued at approximately $500,000-$620,000, but United for Better Living submitted the highest bid:  $100,000. The buyer can’t used the property for anything other than an alternative or options school for grades K-12 without first receiving approval from the Board of Education.

Expansion of the Pilsen Industrial Corridor TIF – 11th & 25th Ward

The Department of Planning and Development needs approval from the Committee to acquire eight vacant pieces of land and one privately owned industrial site along South Sangamon Street from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. This 61,000-square-foot acquisition will help with the development of the Sangamon Paseo walking trail, a north-south pedestrian link similar to the recently opened 606 trail. Once the City Council approves the acquisition, the parcels will be appraised, purchased and converted into public open space.


One buyer who stands out among the several ANLAP bids before the Committee is John J. Pikarski, the so-called “dean of zoning lawyers” in Chicago. He also spent some time serving on the Chicago Plan Commission. Pikarski wants to buy a city-owned vacant parcel in Bridgeport at 2918 S. Archer Ave., parallel to the Stevenson Expressway. Real estate development company Bertco is also interested in a vacant lot valued at $112,000 in the 11th ward.