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Three Years After Buying Vacant Pullman Homes With Promise Of Quick Rehabs, Developer Hasn’t Started

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

The historic Pullman community, home to the nation’s first industrial planned community, is undergoing a massive renovation, but promises of a quick turnaround have yet to materialize.

A plan to preserve and restore a historic block of homes in Pullman has turned into years of eyesores for neighbors.

That’s causing some frustrated homeowners to turn to CBS 2 Investigator Dorothy Tucker to find out what the holdup is all about.

Take a drive near 107th and Langley, and you can’t help but notice what residents have been living with for years. Paul Wilks’ home is right next door to an abandoned building that has yet to be renovated, three years after a developer bought it.

“I mean, on this block you’ve probably got five residents total, and the rest is abandoned,” Wilks said.

The block has at nearly empty, boarded-up and run-down abandoned buildings.

“Sometimes I get angry, because me being in a situation like this,” Wilks said. “It makes you look like you’re a bad person too, based on the way the area is.”

In October 2016, non-profit development group Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives bought eight properties on the block from the city for roughly $10,000 each, with the promise to rehab them.

In a promotional video, CNI touts its success in bringing $350 million to revitalize the community in the form of new businesses, rehabbing historic homes, and jobs. So when CNI snatched up the houses on Langley, Wilks had hope.

“They went in here and cleaned them all out, so I’m looking like they was going to start doing changes ,” he said.

Nearly three years later, the buildings CNI bought are still vacant and boarded up.

“It don’t take that long to redo a house,” Wilks said.

CNI Chief Operating Officer Jennifer Bransfield said they are still working on financing for the renovations on 107th and Langley.

Bransfield also pointed to nearby 107th and Champlain, where 28 homes were rehabbed over the last 10 years.

However, the agreement CNI signed in 2016 said they would start rehabbing the houses on Langley within 90 days after closing.

Bransfield said CNI “hoped” to be able to meet that goal, but knew funding would be an issue.

So why agree to start the rehab in 90 days if funding wasn’t secured?

“We were hoping it would work. We’ve also remained in communication with the city,” she said.

According to an email, CNI was talking with the city as recently as May about getting rid of some of the eight homes it bought on Langley.

However, a city spokesman said CNI would lose them all, because nothing had been done.

The city is “finalizing a plan to transfer the properties in default” to other developers that will complete the work.

“It could be better just if they were to fix up these other units and stuff like that,” Wilks said.

Wilks said he has renewed hope the abandoned houses on his block soon will be fixed up and occupied.

“After being unable to receive sufficient subsidy to make the original plan work, we’re encouraged the Department of Housing is working with CNI on a revised development strategy that will include other developers for these vacant properties,” a CNI spokesperson stated.


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