Evanston, Cook County officials tour NSP2 rehabilitated homes

Marshall Cohen

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Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined top Evanston officials on a tour of west Evanston homes that are being rehabilitated as part of the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Evanston received $18 million in federal stimulus funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The city partnered with Brinshore Development and plans to acquire and revitalize 100 foreclosed and abandoned homes that will be sold to residents with low to moderate incomes.

“I was a local elected official for 20 years, so I know how important investments in troubled properties on a block can be,” Preckwinkle said.

Preckwinkle first met with Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) at the Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center, 1655 Foster St., before embarking on a tour of some NSP2 homes.

“It’s important to have them see we are spending the money well and creating jobs, and it is stabilizing the neighborhood,” Tisdahl said. “We’re seeing the housing prices go up, and affordable housing in Evanston is something people need.”

“We’re just excited to share it with President Preckwinkle and to let her know what this kind of support will do for the community,” Holmes said.

A group of about 25 people, including Commissioner Larry Suffredin, who represents Evanston on the Cook County Board of Commissioners, went on a tour of Emerson Square, a dormant industrial site that will be transformed into a housing area with 32 new units.

They also visited two newly built NSP2 houses on Brown Avenue and Grey Street.

The Grey Street home was originally acquired from Bank of America, said Todd Lieberman, vice president of Brinshore Development.

“We came in and the opportunity was to create an energy-efficient renovation that really feels like reconstruction specially designed for the needs of an accessible household,” Lieberman said. “This is a very, very nice place to live.”

The west Evanston units come with brand new washers, dryers and dishwashers. The city also plans on building a new public park in Emerson Square. New properties will feature a mix of single-family homes as well as condominiums.

The first Evanston NSP2 property, a split-level home located at 1704 Grey St., was sold for $200,000 earlier this month.

“We’re really beginning to see the fruits of our labor,” said Jolene Saul, the city’s NSP2 specialist, before the walking tour Thursday morning.

“This program really does provide an opportunity for people who live here, who work here, who want to stay in this community, but sometimes find it difficult to find affordable housing,” Saul added.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is leading the efforts for the national $1.9 billion NSP2 program.

Locally, the project is called LiveEvanston and was funded by federal grants from the stimulus bill. The vast majority of Congressional Republicans staunchly opposed the bill in 2009. Since then, many Republicans have said the bill failed to stimulate the economy.

Tisdahl said she strongly disagreed and told The Daily the stimulus “worked the way it was supposed to work.”

“It’s created jobs primarily for minorities, for people who live in the neighborhoods that are being helped,” Tisdahl said. “I don’t think the stimulus is controversial at all. I think it works because I’m seeing it work here.”

The housing program will also offer rental properties, which Tisdahl said she is “excited to see.”

“Evanston used to have a lot more people renting before the condominium craze, so we were even more socioeconomically diverse in the community with rentals,” Tisdahl said. “This is going to keep Evanston as a diverse community – that’s one of the many things we love about this community.”

In addition to the west Evanston properties, NSP2 homes will be built in south Evanston in the 8th Ward.

The city plans to acquire all 100 properties by next month and hopes to complete rehabilitation by February 2013, said Brinshore Development President David Brent.