Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl cut the ribbon at the playground of Emerson Square. This 32-unit, mixed income residential project represents the final stage in the City’s 8.1 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program. RoundTable photo

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The last piece of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 project is in place. On Nov. 6, the Brinshore development team invited civic leaders and the community to a ribbon-cutting at Emerson Square, a 32-unit mixed-income development in the block between Ashland and Jackson avenues and Foster and Emerson Streets.

In 2010, the City received a grant of $18.1 million to rehab 100 single-family homes and condominium units in the Fifth and Eighth wards and put them on the market for sale or rent at affordable prices. Had there been surplus funds afterward, the plan was to build a new housing complex on Foster Street on the former Bishop Freeman property. David Brint, principal of Brinshore Development, said that by leveraging additional funds and financing through low-income housing tax credits, the company was able to come up with the funding for Emerson Square.

Twenty-eight of the units will be rented to income-eligible families, and four will be rented at market rate. Energy Star appliances and good insulation are two of the ways that monthly payments will be kept affordable, said Todd Lieberman, project manager.  

 “This property was a closed manufacturing facility,” Mr. Brint said. “We took it and created a beautiful community. A lot of the vision was from Dennis Marino [now retired from the City]. He and Sarah Flax [in the City’s department of Community and Economic Development] worked … to make sure the vision of [Fifth Ward] Alderman Delores Holmes was followed.” He also said that Brinshore had exceeded both HUD and City requirements about hiring local and minority-owned companies to work on the project.

“It’s lovely,” said Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl. “This is exactly what we need in this community. … It is difficult to live in a community like this with high taxes.” She thanked Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Senator Richard Durbin for their help in securing the NSP2 funds.

Calling the project an example of what government can do by working with the private sector, Rep. Schakowsky said, “I’m very proud to have been part of this project. … It helps stabilize the local neighborhood; it gets rid of unsightly property and improves public safety.” She said one of the reasons Evanston received the grant was because the application “was so well-written.”

Craig Bales of Sen. Durbin’s office said, “We talk about money in [Washington]. You … forget that you can go out and touch it.” He echoed Rep. Schakowsky’s comment, saying, “federal spending is important.”

Mr. Marino, who was the City’s point person from the application process until he retired last year, said he thought Emerson Square was “very impressive. …and a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization and reinvestment in the surrounding neighborhood, in addition to supplying the needed 32 high-quality affordable housing units.  It addresses in a substantial way the need for affordable housing in the community and elsewhere.”