Daley's Deal + Lady Blago Fundraising = Epic Fail For Shelter

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Jan 8, 2009 10:20PM

A Chicago Christian Industrial League homeless shelter is struggling to stay afloat after a deal by Mayor Daley moved them to new digs they can't afford and Patti Blagojevich's fundraising efforts have fallen short according to an investigation by NBC 5 and the Sun-Times. It seemed at first to be pretty simple: the city moved the League 's homeless shelter from its "crumbling" Greektown location into a new $25 million building in Lawndale which cleared the way for developer Michael Marchese and businessman William F. Cellini - who was recently indicted for trying to shake down a Hollywood producer - to build a brand-spanking-new condo unit on the site of the old shelter. What could go wrong?

But the deal left the shelter with the short-end of the stick, struggling to pay for their new home. Needing to pay back $10.8 million it borrowed to build the new facility, the League turned around and hired Patti Blagojevich to help raise money with a $100,000, one-year contract. The end result? Not a whole hell of a lot. Lady Blago hasn't really pulled in a lot of money for the League, who won't say exactly how much she's pulled in, but the S-T report says the League has collected between "$10,000 to $15,000 in each of the past three months — the same as it did before she started, said president William Good." And while the League claims they're not going bankrupt, according to Paul Camenisch, the Vice President of the Christian Industrial League's Board of Directors, "it would be irresponsible of us not to admit that that possibility sits there. But we hope it's remote."

And what of the mayor's pals, Marchese and Cellini? Of the 212 condo units in the building standing on the shelter's old site, only half of the units have sold, each ranging at a price around a half-million dollars, a result of the economic slowdown. But that's okay because thanks to some pulled strings, the developers didn't have to fork over certain fees. Normally when the city provides such financial assistance for a development, there are strings attached:

The developers must set aside one of every five condos as affordable housing. Or else they have to pay a hefty fee — about $4.2 million in the case of the Greektown project. But Marchese and his partners — indicted Republican power broker William F. Cellini and developer William Senne — didn’t have to do either one.

Why? Because City Hall didn’t give the money to Marchese. Instead, the city paid the Chicago Christian Industrial League to demolish the charity’s former homeless shelter using contractors chosen and supervised by Marchese’s team, city records show. After the work was done, Marchese’s team took title to the property in the 100 block of South Green Street, a block west of Halsted.

Marchese and his partners “got around the affordable-housing piece because they said the Christian Industrial League got the money,’’ said Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), a longtime supporter of affordable housing who represents Greektown.

And the cost to the taxpayers? $13.5 million, according to the investigation. Well, as long as there's no skin off of Mayor Daley's back.