AURORA | Nearby residents are expressing concerns over affordable housing units proposed near the future Peoria-Smith station and Fitzsimons light rail stations in north Aurora.
“Having any more residential in the area is going to make commute times impossible, transportation unsafe for residents, children, everybody,” said Glenn Ressmeyer, a Morris Heights resident. At a regular Aurora City Council meeting Oct. 26, Ressmeyer spoke out against a project proposed by the Aurora Housing Authority. The housing authority has proposed to build three four-story apartment buildings along Peoria Street and two-story town homes along Quari Street, providing a total of 180 new housing units on what is now nearly six acres of vacant land.
“The proposed project is a public benefit that will bring private investment and jobs into the city,” said Elizabeth Neufeld, director of development with AHA, at that meeting. Neufeld was speaking as part of a public hearing about the zoning change and proposed residences.
The vacant land is part of the Peoria-Smith Station Area Plan, created to guide development along Aurora’s new light rail line and the East Commuter rail line, both set to open next year. The land is zoned for light industrial development, but not for residential use.
Residents from the nearby Morris Heights neighborhood have raised concerns over traffic congestion, resident parking and increased density at previous meetings about the project.
Neufeld said at the October council meeting the AHA held three neighborhood meetings with residents, and said the AHA had adjusted its plans for the site based on feedback. She said that included reducing the original height of the buildings from five stories to four and reducing the number of proposed units from the 210 allowable on the site.
AHA Executive Director Craig Maraschky said they will likely further reduce the number of units from 180 based on feedback from neighbors.
Suzy Cress, president of the Morris Heights Improvement Association, also spoke against the project and said residents were worried about a lack of parking with the new units.
Neufeld said parking would be provided for the future residents and that parking would be part of the AHA housing property, and would not infringe on neighborhood parking.
Maraschky said the housing units, known as Peoria Crossing, would cost between $40 million to $50 million to construct. He said private capital would fund between $25.6 and $32 million of that cost.
“During the construction of the development, there will be approximately 300 construction employees working on the site,” he said. “We require our general contractor to make significant efforts to expand their construction labor pool to the local community.”
Maraschky said Aurora has successfully used the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program to build eight other properties in Aurora. He pointed to the success of the Village at Westerly Creek 1 & 2, located on East Kentucky Avenue and Ironton Street as one example.
“These developments were opened in 2012 and 2015, respectively, and created 120 units of replacement housing for AHA’s former public housing development, Buckingham Gardens,” he said. “Village at Westerly Creek has won local, state, and national awards for design, development, and services for its provision of homes to its very-low income seniors and disabled residents.”
At a September Planning Commission meeting, the zoning and proposed residential plan was unanimously approved.
At a regular council meeting Nov. 9, Aurora City Council voted to change the zoning from light industrial to sustainable infill redevelopment, with a requirement that the final AHA site plan be submitted to the city’s planning commission again.
Councilman Bob LeGare said he will be watching carefully what happens at that meeting.
“I think it’s a fantastic project. It’s a needed project as far as having affordable housing,” he said. “But that particular site was zoned industrial, and the type of impact you have on an industrial project is vastly different than what we will see with an apartment project. That’s what I’m interested in seeing, how the housing authority works through those issues with the neighborhood.”