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Aurora Housing Authority  considering development at River Street Lofts site

Updated: January 4, 2014 6:30AM

AURORA — The possibility of a Housing Authority-backed development at the old River Street Lofts site is back on the table, AHA officials confirmed Monday.

AHA Executive Director Keith Gregory confirmed that the Housing Authority is in early stages of considering a development opportunity with Sugar Grove-based developer Kevin Fitzpatrick, who now owns the old River Street Lofts building. Fitzpatrick purchased the 251-261 S. River St. site in downtown Aurora in November.

Although the AHA is in “very preliminary stages” of considering a partnership project, Gregory said that the building could be developed into “workforce housing” — housing for working families who pay “near market-rate rents.” Families living in the units would make $40,000 to $50,000 per year, according to Fitzpatrick.

“The primary difference between workforce housing and public housing in the expectation of income, employment,” Gregory said. “The Housing Authority would be involved in providing affordability, providing some funding so some of the units could be a lower price.”

Early plans could see the four-story 41,760-square-foot property converted into 24 to 28 units, Fitzpatrick said. The possible development would not be converted into low-income housing, he said.

“This is not another Jericho Circle,” Fitzpatrick said Monday. “We would be bringing really good, hard-working Aurora residents downtown while fulfilling the AHA’s need for housing in a nice area.”

City spokesman Dan Ferrelli said the city has not seen any preliminary plans as they pertain to the site, but that AHA officials did let the city know that they met with Fitzpatrick “and that the River Street property came up in discussion.”

Ferrelli said the city would not support a public housing use at the site.

“The city has spent years and millions of dollars to revitalize its downtown and encourage more private investment,” he said. “We have communicated to AHA staff that we are not in favor of public housing at the River Street property.”

AHA board member Dave Richert said the site had been previously discussed, but no formal plan has been presented to the AHA board.

Gregory said a River Street Lofts partnership development would align with the Housing Authority’s goal to expand affordable housing opportunities in the city.

“I’m always looking to partner with private developers in prime areas,” Gregory said.

In October, AHA officials toured the building ahead of an auction sale of the River Street Lofts property but decided not to bid on the site. At the time, Gregory said the AHA board was against the move.

After an auction deal fell through, Fitzpatrick bought the former River Street lofts property in November. Fitzpatrick has not disclosed the purchase price.

According to property records, Citizens First National Bank owned the River Street Lofts property in 2011. Bloomington-based Heartland Real Estate Holdings owned the property in 2012. Prior to 2011, the property was owned by River Street Lofts LLC, a limited liability corporation managed by the VanStrand Group.

The River Street Lofts project, part of developer Joe Vantreese’s River Street Plaza project, was proposed to the city in 2006. Vantreese bought the building in 2005 for $550,000, according to property records. The site was formerly home to the old Shorr Paper Products plant, a building that was constructed in 1912.

The Lofts were proposed to house 20 condominiums. Vantreese died in 2011.

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