In 1970, the late Rev. Jacob Blake of Ebenezer African Episcopal Church in Evanston helped establish the Chicago suburb’s first affordable senior housing complex with a land purchase from Northwestern University at a bargain price of $75,000.
The Emerson Street parcel that is now the address of the 106-unit Ebenezer Primm Towers was worth $300,000 then. The discount — provided after pushback by Evanston’s Black community against university campus expansion displacing residents — led to the development of the housing complex that’s become a symbol of success in affordable housing policy
The nine-story complex is set aside at lease rates deemed affordable for tenants who are 62 or older and have annual incomes below the median in the area, and will undergo a $23 million rehab after a sale by the church and a tax credit deal. The complex will receive installations of new kitchen cabinets and appliances, new flooring, upgrades to the building’s HVAC system, electrical improvements and a new roof, among other projects, said Illinois Housing Development Authority spokesman Andrew Fields.
An affiliate of the church sold Ebenezer Primm Towers for $12 million to a limited partnership registered to Chicago affordable housing attorney Gregory Miller, Cook County records show. The church, however, retained a controlling interest in the purchasing entity, which also includes an investor and a separate nonprofit that bought into the complex, together contributing $7.7 million to the deal that the church used to pay off an FHA loan.
Since its construction nearly 50 years ago, Ebenezer Primm has been owned and managed by the church — which was formerly pastored by Blake, whose grandson, also named Jacob Blake, was shot in the back several times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 2020 while he held a knife, sparking nationwide protests in the wake of demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd earlier the same year.
The affordable housing has been celebrated by the Evanston community as a cornerstone in the fight against the sort of systemic racial inequity that’s viewed by many, including the younger Blake, as contributing to the controversial shooting that seriously injured the then-29-year-old father. The late elder Blake was an avid fair housing activist who advocated expanding affordable rental options in Black communities as a crucial step toward racial justice.
Separately from the sale, PNC Bank bought Low-Income Housing Tax Credits allocated to Ebenezer Primm Towers in a deal worth another $7.7 million to finance the housing renovations and lower its own federal tax bill, according to the Illinois Housing Development Authority, which distributes tax credits. The state housing agency also issued $10.3 million in bonds to help fund the renovations. Additional sources of funding for the $23 million renovation include a seller’s note, property’s reserves, a deferred project fee and the building’s cash flow, the state agency spokesman Fields said.
The combination of financial instruments used to cement the renovation project mirrored a similarly complex, $54 million deal for the 148-unit Lake Park Crescent affordable housing complex on Chicago’s South Side that closed this month. That purchase, by Jeff Jaeger’s affordable housing landlord Standard Communities, also set up a $10 million renovation and took two years and overcame obstacles — such as repairs stemming from a fire at the building right before the scheduled closing — to reach the finish line.
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September 19, 2022 at 09:47PM