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Preckwinkle checks out Evanston's progress in rehabbing foreclosed properties
Suburb using $18 million federal grant to make headway

Friday, January 27, 2012
Chicago Tribune
by Jonathan Bullington

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle visited Evanston on Thursday morning for a tour of how the city has spent an $18 million federal grant to be used for rehabbing foreclosed properties.

After a brief overview of the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program at the city's Fleetwood Jourdain Community Center, Preckwinkle first visited the site of a proposed affordable housing development on the city's west side.

Dubbed Emerson Square, the development calls for between 65 and 80 units of mixed-income rental apartments on a dormant industrial site.

The idea for the development came out of the West Evanston Master Plan, and launched when the city received a roughly $18 million grant to revitalize two areas on the south and west sides pummeled by foreclosures.

After touring Emerson Square, Preckwinkle stopped at two homes on Brown Avenue and Grey Street. Both homes have been renovated with the federal grant.

"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 after the tour.

Evanston and its Neighborhood Stabilization partner, Brinshore Development, want to rehabilitate 100 units of foreclosed housing in west and south Evanston. Officials said 78 units have been acquired so far.

The Meeks family, of Evanston, became the first family to buy one of the properties. In January, the family closed on a split-level home in the 1700 block of Grey Street.

"This program is exactly what we needed to turn the Grey Street neighborhood around," said Ald. Delores Holmes, 5th.

For about seven years, Christopher and Jessie Meeks were renters in Evanston. They have two children, Christopher, 6, and Jace, 4. Though interested in home ownership, Christopher Meeks said his family was unable to find an affordable home in Evanston that suited their needs.

"We wanted to own for quite a while," Meeks said.

The Neighborhood Stabilization appealed to the family, Meeks said, because it offered them a mortgage subsidy and lower down payments than a traditional mortgage.

"We got the house we wanted, and it's still in Evanston," he said.

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