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Pullman neighborhood to get $1.5M to rehab historic homes

Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks press conference Tuesday Pullman neighborhood Far South Side Side.  |  Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel speaks at a press conference Tuesday in the Pullman neighborhood on the Far South Side Side. | Maudlyne Ihejirika/Sun-Times

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The Far South Side Pullman neighborhood will get a boost from settlement money won through the national mortgage foreclosure crisis, enough to rehab and sell 20 of its historic homes and propel ongoing revitalization efforts, city and state officials announced Tuesday.

The Chicago Neighborhood Initiative will receive $1.5 million for the area’s redevelopment from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan — a share of about $70 million in settlement money dedicated to community reinvestment, officials said at a press conference at 107th and Champlain.

The Chicago Neighborhood Initiative is among 54 Illinois groups to get grants from Illinois’ portion of a $25 billion national settlement won in a case accusing five of the country’s largest bank mortgage servicers of engaging in widespread robo-signing of documents and other fraudulent practices during foreclosure proceedings.

“The hard dollars that we received in the mortgage foreclosure settlement were intended to do remediation work in the hardest-hit communities in the country, and I’m very proud of the fact that Illinois is among only a handful of states that are using the money for the purpose that it was intended,” Madigan said. “Pullman is a historic gem, not only in our city but in our nation, and so we’re very happy to be a part of bringing this wonderful community back to where it should be.”

The $70 million is Illiniois’ share of the national settlement negotiated from Bank of America, Ally Bank (formerly GMAC), Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo by states’ attorney generals.

The Neighborhood Initiative’s grant will fund the Pullman affordable historic home revitalization project. About $1.3 million will go toward rehab and sale of 20 vacant single-family homes acquired by the city in the neighborhood built by Pullman railcar magnate George Pullman in the 1880s. The city transferred the homes to group.

An additional 15 buildings will be acquired with the remaining $200,000, for development of 40 new rental units. The city will kick in $400,000 for financial incentives to help buyers of the homes.

“It’s a holistic approach that we’re taking, because we all know there’s no one silver bullet to transform a community,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th). “This brings everything that we’re trying to do here full circle. We’re creating jobs. We’re putting people to work. But we need to give them a quality housing stock, at an affordable rate. And so areas like the northern part of Pullman that have been ignored for a long time, we’re bringing the resources in to redo all these homes inside and out.”

According to the city, about $5 million has been invested through the Chicago Neighborhood Initiative in renovation of 38 of Pullman’s historic homes to date. Pullman Park, a mixed-use, 180-acre site of a former steel factory, has been a revitalization anchor, with a $100 million first phase bringing a 148,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter and other retail to 111th and Doty Road, along with 750 permanent jobs, according to the city. Pullman, home of the A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which pays tribute to the iconic Pullman Porters who formed the nation’s first African-American labor union, is up for national park designation.

In January, U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., along with U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., introduced federal legislation to create a Pullman National Historical Park under the auspices of the National Park Service. Bounded by 95th Street, State Street, 123rd Street and portions of Interstate 94 and Stony Island Avenue, the area is a state and city landmark and a national historic landmark district.

“Finally, the cries of the people are being heard. Attention is being given to a once ignored community and we are at a point where we can’t go anywhere but forward,” said the Rev. Merlon Jackson, pastor of Christ Community Church in Pullman, and chair of CNI’s board of directors. “I’m very thankful to the longtime residents for their fortitude, and now they’re seeing their dreams coming true.”

One of the nation’s first planned industrial towns, Pullman was where the famed sleeping cars were built. The community’s Victorian-inspired rowhouses, clock tower and other structures still stand, though many are decrepit.

Pullman is one of the city’s seven Chicago Neighborhoods Now “opportunity areas,” which the city says it has targeted with about $226 million in completed and planned public and private investments, including renovation of the Pullman Wheelworks Apartments; a Pullman Park Community Center; additions at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep; and rehab of the Palmer Park Fieldhouse and the Method manufacturing and distribution facility.

“It’s one thing to do housing. It’s another thing to do a Wal-Mart. It’s another thing to do a Method park, a rec center, four new playgrounds. This is comprehensive neighborhood strategy,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “A lot of people love to come and talk about Pullman’s past. Wer’e here to talk about Pullman in the next 30 years, and you can see the renaissance.”


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