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King Legacy project set to begin this fall

Construction of the $17 million Dr. King Legacy Apartments is expected to begin this fall on the site where Martin Luther King Jr. stayed during his 1966 visit to Chicago.

Photo: Gordon Walek

Crowds gather for the dedication on the site for the Dr. King Legacy Apartments, to be constructed by late 2010.

In addition to 45 affordable apartments, the mixed-use building will include both affordable retail space and exhibition space memorializing King’s stay.

Non-profit developer and NCP lead agency Lawndale Christian Development Corp. (LCDC) is partnering with Westside Federation of Chicago and Safeway Companies to build the structure on 1.5 acres of vacant land on the northwest corner of Hamlin Avenue and 16th Street.

The site includes 1550 S. Hamlin Ave., the lot where King stayed in a two-flat building during his 1966 Freedom Campaign visit. That two-flat was razed about 30 years ago through city’s fast-track demolition program.  Within the last year, the city donated the land to the developer.

A substantial portion of the apartment building’s $17 million construction cost is coming from equity raised via LCDC's sale of low income housing tax credits: $1.5 million  from the city's Community Development Department and $1.3 million from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Photo: Gordon Walek

Residents and neighborhood leaders, including Cook County Clerk Dorothy Brown (center), attended the ceremony in April announcing the Dr. King Legacy Apartments.

At the time city officials agreed to donate the land, LCDC Executive Director Kim Jackson expected to raise about $10 million from the city tax credits, and about $8 million from IHDA tax credits.

Because today ‘s North Lawndale neighborhood still grapples with the need for affordable apartments that existed in 1966, when King lobbied for it, LCDC will offer the Legacy two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments at rates touted as truly affordable.

“They are 1966 prices,” Jackson jested to North Lawndale leaders and residents at a ceremony at 16th and Hamlin to unveil the project in April. But she wasn't completely joking: Rents could range from $222 for a two-bedroom apartment to about $300 for a four-bedroom, she said. Roughly 4,000 square feet of ground floor retail space in the project is expected to be leased affordably as well, to local entrepreneurs, Jackson added.

The King Apartments, expected to be completed in late 2010, will take up a little less than half of the broader, four-acre Martin Luther King Historic District, which will stretch along 16th Street between Hamlin and Harding avenues.

Photo: Gordon Walek

Kim Jackson (left), executive director of NCP lead agency and non-profit developer Lawndale Christian Development Corp., shares smiles with other attendees.

LCDC and its partners, including Marcy-Newberry Association, Westside Federation, Chicago Youth Centers, Safeway Construction Companies, and the Steans Family Foundation, plan to build a memorial park, a library and a Martin Luther King memorial in the $42 million historic district over the next several years.

A yet-to-be-determined amount of funding for the historic district could come from the federal stimulus program, said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., who spoke at the unveiling.

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