I am pleased to report we scored a significant victory in our efforts to improve the safety of the Morse Avenue area. A Chicago-based real estate firm, Newcastle Limited, recently acquired 1340 W. Morse and 1345 W. Lunt, a troubled apartment complex located just east of the Morse El Station, along Glenwood Ave.
The complex consists of two apartment buildings–one fronting on Morse, the other on Lunt–and has been the site of suspected drug and gang activity for some time. An undercover police investigation last year netted several drug purchases at 1340 W. Morse, which resulted in both buildings being placed in the City’s Strategic Task Force program.
The Strategic Task Force targets buildings that have been identified as “drug/gang houses or places of ongoing criminal activity.” The task force consists of city lawyers, building inspectors and the police who team up to conduct top to bottom inspections of problem buildings and meet with the owners of the buildings to develop a plan for resolving the problems.
The task force can require building owners to evict problem tenants, engage in criminal background checks of prospective tenants and tenants renewing leases, and provide building security enhancements. In extreme cases, the task force can compel landlords to sell their property.
I participated in a series of meetings with the Strategic Task Force, Beat 2431 Facilitator Kevin O’Neil, the management company and a representative of the consortium that owns the buildings to develop a plan to resolve the criminal activity. I insisted the abatement plan include several items suggested by community residents, including hiring security guards to patrol the building and its perimeter during peak periods of criminal activity.
While the measures resulted in some improvements, the buildings continued to have problems. The City attorney and I strongly encouraged the owners to sell the buildings to a responsible buyer who could manage them well.
The sale to Newcastle will place the buildings in the hands of an experienced real estate advisory and investment firm with holdings throughout Chicago and its suburbs. Armed with a $500 million platform, Newcastle possesses the resources necessary to completely renovate the building, and manage it well.
The building suffers from years of neglect. Newcastle states it will keep the property as a rental apartment building, but must vacate the building to undertake the renovations necessary to make it a quality rental building
My office is currently working with the current residents of the building and the Metropolitan Tenants Organization to ensure that the tenants are treated fairly and provided assistance in locating other homes. Newcastle assures me that it will honor all leases and abide by the requirements of the Chicago Landlord-Tenant Ordinance.
This victory would not have been accomplished without the hard work of vigilant neighborhood residents, especially those who participated in the CAPS program. And of course, the 24th District Police Department played a key role in keeping the pressure on the old building owners.
Congratulations to all involved!