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Double Down: Twin Brothers Rehabbing Chicago

Wednesday, February 06, 2019
Chicago Defender
by Deborah Bayliss

The Downing Brothers have caught the eye of HGTV. The twin brothers recently had a pilot program air; the pilot featured their renovation of a home in Chicago.

Viewer ratings for the pilot of the show tentatively titled “Double Down” were strong but there’s no word yet as to whether the show will be picked up by the network or whether the network will schedule more pilots.

“Double Down” initially aired on the DIY Network with strong ratings so the company that owns both HGTV and DIY aired a second pilot Jan. 25 on HGTV to see if the show would garner enough views to earn the brothers their own weekly show.

“We got the ratings!” Anton said during an interview with the Defender. “We’re in a strong position. We were 64 out of the top 150 shows on HGTV. Our numbers were twice as good as last time. The first pilot aired on the DIY network on Dec. 29 where we were 111th out of the top 150 shows. HGTV was ecstatic but it could be six months before we know what their decision will be. They sometimes will air 2-4 pilots before they decide. We were able to garner support from viewers on our own. We promoted the show without any help from the network. We took it upon ourselves to make everyone aware of the show.”

Firefighters by day, the African-American rehabbers have countless interviews with various publications and news outlets under their “belts.” Writers and reporters are trying by any means necessary to get to them, including calling and even driving up to their firehouses.

Anthony and Anton, 37, who have equally, upbeat and energetic personalities, would like to keep the momentum going and are asking viewers to use Twitter to let the network know they would like to see the show as a regular part of HGTV’s lineup (use #HGTV when tweeting).

They’re also asking supporters to continue promoting the show via social media. You can leave your comments about the show on their Instagram page @thedowningbrothers.

Though it’s not clear what percentage of the HGTV ratings were African-American, according to global researcher Nielsen, African-American viewers carry a lot of weight when it comes to audience and purchasing power.

Nielsen ratings measure the popularity of American television programs. Developed by Nielsen Media Research, the ratings are not qualitative evaluations of how much a program is “liked,” but rather, how many people watched.

Nielsen ratings help determine the audience size and composition of television programming.

A 2018 Nielsen report on the digital habits and the impact of African American consumers found that African-Americans are enjoying a “remarkable period of influence, cultural expression and entrepreneurship that is manifesting digitally and trending mainstream.”

So utilizing social media to help promote the show as the twins did is a game changer that resulted in big results.

 

“African Americans are leveraging innovations in technology and the anonymity of social platforms to level the playing field and get ahead in a marketplace unencumbered by corporate scrutiny,” said Cheryl Grace, Nielsen Senior Vice President of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement, in a report on the findings. “African American influence has long resonated cross-culturally, and now it’s being delivered directly from creator to consumer. Give talented, creative people unobstructed access to the world stage and, inevitably, they will shine.”

While Black audiences carry a lot of weight, a 2017 Nielsen analysis of TV viewership found that several programs with a predominantly Black cast or a main storyline focusing on a Black character draw substantial non-Black viewership.

It’s not unusual for television shows with Black leads to draw non-Black audiences; what is unusual, according to Nielsen, is the sheer number of programs that have cross-cultural appeal.

“Much of the American narrative lately has focused on a growing cultural divide. But Nielsen’s data on television programming show something different,” Andrew McCaskill, senior vice president, Communications and Multicultural Marketing, said in a Nielsen report. “Storylines with a strong Black character or identity are crossing cultural boundaries to grab diverse audiences and start conversations. That insight is important for culture and content creators, as well as manufacturers and retailers looking to create engaging, high-impact advertising campaigns.”

On “Double Down,” Anton, who resides in South Shore, and Anthony, who lives in Woodlawn, rehab single family properties as well as apartment buildings in Chatham, Burnside, South Shore and Bronzeville neighborhoods and likely will expand to the West Side as well.

 

The twins as teens

 

The most recent pilot focused on the jubilant twins, rehabbing a mid-century house in the 9100 block of South Cregier Ave. in the Calumet Heights community.

The twins see rehabbing homes as a way to revitalize and improve their neighborhoods and community.

“Our story goes back 20 years,” Anton said. “Our first flip was a 3,000 sq. ft. grey stone condo in Bronzeville. So far we’ve renovated eight or nine properties. This is just the beginning. We now have partners. We’re real estate investors. We will roll up our sleeves and take part in the renovations from time to time, but we generally hire people to do the work for us. We usually hold the apartment buildings we rehab and flip the single family homes.”

Anton and Anthony purchased their first grey stone for $200,000, put $50,000 worth of rehab work into it and then sold it for $300,000. They walked away with $50,000 for their efforts.

The Neighborhoods

Chicago’s South and West sides saw an enormous amount of vacant and deteriorating homes due to foreclosures and owners simply walking away from properties they could no longer pay for during the U. S. subprime mortgage crisis, the nationwide financial crisis that occurred between 2007 and 2010 and contributed to the U.S. recession between Dec. 2007 to June 2009.

Those same neighborhoods also experienced disproportionate crime compared to other parts of the city. Add to that, the high unemployment rates for African-Americans and the obstacles they face when trying to obtain home improvement or any kind of loan for that matter, and you have a recipe for blighted neighborhoods on the South and West sides.

When asked their thoughts about blight, crime and African-Americans leaving the city for better living conditions, Anthony said, “I’m hoping the work we’re doing on a national platform will encourage people to come back and stay. You can buy a home, renovate it and see a future. For every house we renovate, that block is better for it. We feature each neighborhood we renovate a home in on the show. We love Chicago. This is not just a home renovation show, it’s a movement to help save neighborhoods.”

Anthony and Anton’s efforts to revitalize neighborhoods and make dreams of home ownership possible are admirable.

Abandoned houses can sit vacant for years and have a negative impact on surrounding property values. Called “Zombie Houses,” they are often left empty and caught in legal limbo.

These so called zombie homes are havens for those seeking to do harm and other criminal activity.

The Downing twins are not alone. Investors and other house flippers are taking advantage of the opportunities available. The Cook County Land Bank Authority was formed by a Cook County ordinance in 2013 to address the large inventory of vacant residential, industrial and commercial property in Cook County after two extensive reports conducted by Cook County and Urban Land Institute.



 

The Land Bank is a unit of Cook County government, funded primarily with grants, contributions and revenues from transactions and is the largest land bank by geography in the country. It’s governed by a Board of Directors appointed by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and the Cook County Board of Commissioners.



 

The Land Bank acquires, holds, and transfers interest in real property throughout Cook County as a way to promote redevelopment and reuse of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed or tax-delinquent properties; support targeted efforts to stabilize neighborhoods; and stimulate residential, commercial and industrial development.



 

If you would like to take part in revitalizing neighborhoods and are looking to purchase your own home but having trouble finding something in your price range, you may be able to purchase a fixer upper.

The Cook County Land Bank Authority has a Homebuyer Direct Program. The program reaches out to prospective homeowners who may be interested in directly purchasing, rehabbing, and ultimately living in the home.

Properties throughout Cook County for prospective owner-occupants are reportedly offered at below-market prices, according to information on the Land Bank website at http://www.cookcountylandbank.org.

As for the twins, they would like Chicago residents on the South and West sides to follow their example and get involved with helping to revitalize their neighborhoods.

“There needs to be balance in every neighborhood,” Anthony said. “People need a path to home ownership and the educational component of it such as how to renovate and financing, and we would like to see that happen. We need everyone to share and repost this and other stories. (@theDowningBrothers on Instagram). We appreciate the support.”



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