A hop, skip and a jump away from Evanston Township High School’s football field sits a gem of a revitalized home, which was on display last week as the newest product of Evanston’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, also known as NSP2.
City officials are hoping that the home, at 1733 Leland Ave. in the Fifth Ward, will have positive effects on its neighborhood, which was hit hard by foreclosures during the past few years of the economic recession.
The city of Evanston has been using an $18-million federal grant to improve the house and others in the neighborhood. Last week, elected officials visited the home to see the results.
On June 14, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Representative Robyn Gabel, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, Aldermen Dolores Holmes and Ann Rainey, and Township Assessor Bonnie Wilson, as well as City of Evanston staff, developers, contractors and neighborhood residents, wandered through the sparkling three-bedroom, two-bath home.
The local politicians admired the project and were appreciative of the efforts of those who helped it happen. Mayor Tisdahl welcomed guests and complimented the contractors and the city officials involved. Alderman Delores Holmes, whose ward includes the home, praised the neighbors, and in particular the local block club members, who have been very supportive and enthusiastic. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky thanked the City of Evanston’s team, which put forward the “extraordinary proposal”, secured the $18.1 million grant against tremendous competition and showed that the confidence placed in the Evanston team was well deserved. She said that the project demonstrates how well a public/private partnership can work, and it should persuade anyone who doubts that government can be a partner in making things happen. She called the project “a great news story.”
Among the guests was Chris Meeks, the owner since January of another NSP2 home and a home buyer counselor at the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, a not-for-profit developer that advocates for affordable housing in Chicago’s suburbs. Mr. Meeks stressed what a wonderful program NSP2 has been for his family. He said he hopes that more people will get involved with the program, especially citizens who think homes like the one at 1733 Leland may be outside their budget.
Mr. Meeks added that events like the open house are a great way to get the public aware of the program. Mr. Meeks works with potential buyers on prepurchase documentation, so that the buyers are familiar with the documents and terms of purchase. He emphasized that the LiveEvanston! program basically “resets the useful life of a property.”
Another guest, Julie Whyte, who works for CEDA Energy, revealed that her grandparents, Cleophus and Ruby Taylor, were the first residents of the 1733 Leland Ave. house and lived there for 40 years. Her grandmother was the original buyer of 1733 Leland Ave. when the block was first developed, and her grandmother got to pick from four different kinds of houses. She remembers that her grandmother also got to pick all of the original finishes. She added that her grandmother deliberately chose a home in the middle of the block.
Cherylette Hilton, a neighbor from two doors south also attended and said she loved the results of the renovation. Hilton, a broker with RE/MAX 1st Class Realty in Skokie, commented on the number of new home improvements in the area, including another NSP2 home around the corner from 1733 Leland Ave.
Ms. Hilton, who grew up in the neighborhood and raised her children there, said she is enthusiastic about this neighborhood’s location in relation to transportation. When potential buyers ask about crime, she refers them to the police department to check the daily crime report. The main reason some people have not been drawn to the program, Ms. Hilton says, is that they must agree not to move for 15 years. She says that for potential buyers with high schoolers, that time frame is sometimes too limiting.
Answering questions about the construction phase were David Brint, Co-founder and Principal and Todd Lieberman, Vice President and senior development manager of Brinshore Development. Brinshore Development is the City of Evanston’s development partner for the NSP2 program and LiveEvanston. Also present was the project contractor Robin Rue (see a profile of Ms. Rue and her company in the RT article of 11/22/2011). The carpentry, drywall and painting subcontractors on the 1733 Leland project were all from Evanston, and all of the lumber came from the Evanston Lumber Company.
The listing brokers for the 3-bedroom house, Beverly Curry and Linda Collier of Coldwell Banker, were thrilled with the results of the renovation. Beverly commented that the house is already under contract, with two bidders on a waiting list. She said that this is a perfect starter home and that, in addition to the three bedrooms and two baths, the basement all-purpose room and the patio also appealed to potential buyers.
Among the City of Evanston staff at the event was Howard Rudny, structural inspector for the City of Evanston. Mr. Rudny has been doing most of the inspections for the NSP2 projects. He commented on the advantage of the many Hardiplank products used on the exterior of the house. They contribute to the low maintenance of the home and are environmentally beneficial. The renovation incorporated many other energy efficient building practices such as using energy- efficient heating and cooling equipment and appliances and drought resistant landscaping where possible.
Judging from the interest and positive comments this home renovation has generated, it is clear that it has had an impact beyond its block.