In 2008, CIC asked Chicago developer Van Vincent of VLV Development if he would take over the ownership and management of three dilapidated buildings on the 6800 block of South Normal in Chicago’s Englewood community. CII had been appointed receiver for the buildings by the City of Chicago after the original owner had stopped making mortgage payments. The buildings were nearly half vacant, and foreclosure was imminent. Located across from a local high school, the buildings also had a serious gang problem.
Before Vincent took over the buildings, residents Dorothy Neal and her husband Alvin protected the buildings and tried to keep them functioning. They put out at least five fires, they picked up the trash, made sure the door at the back was secure at night, and challenged the drug dealers to respect the community. “There were decent people in the building. We wanted to show that if we were unified and cared about the place we lived in, we could make it better,” Alvin said.
A line of credit from CIC allowed Vincent, who grew up in Englewood and nearby Roseland, to acquire the buildings even though credit markets had tightened considerably and very few other real estate deals were being done. Additional help came from the Cook County Tax Assessor’s Class 9 Program, which reduced the buildings’ tax assessment.
Within one year, Vincent had cleared out the gangs, rehabbed all the vacant units, cleared away the graffiti, fixed the elevators, improved the buildings’ public spaces and brightened each building’s hallways — a different color on every floor. The rehab cost $17,000 per unit — a modest price for the considerable changes.
For Vincent, rehabbing rental buildings is more than a business. “We believe in transformational housing’ — buildings with the ability to transform the communities in which they are located,” Vincent said. That commitment is paying off. Most of the units in the building — the majority of which are unsubsidized — are now rented, and the unity the Neals were working for is now a reality.
“Our tenants smile at us, talk to us, and tell us what’s going on in the building. That didn’t used to happen,” said Carl Rogers, chief development officer, VLV Development.