Imagine serving your country, then coming back only to find you don't have much to call your own. Returning military veterans might have to start over with a new home, job or some kind of updated education, and Rockford city leaders want to help.
For one alderman, a new project, that would provide housing for low-to-moderate income military females and their families, is a win-win. It's a plan that addresses a real need plus it'll all take place in the old Church School building on the corner of Blaisdell and Furman Streets. That piece of property hasn't seen much success lately. It's boarded up and empty, but a development business, Gorman & Company has come to the rescue.
"What impresses me about the company is that they realize we're going to have so many different service individuals coming back to the community and to other communities and the housing stock is not there for those individuals." -says 7th Ward Alderman Ann Thompson-Kelly.
Rockford city council members approved Gorman & Company getting started on the plan at Monday city council meeting, but there's a lot of work to be done. First, developers need to figure out how to finance the project. That's been a pain in Ald. Thompson-Kelly's side since Church School's previous owner, Progressive West Rockford, got kicked out for not paying the bills. Progressive West Rockford organizers wanted to turn the building into a community center with after-school activities for children.
"We did everything that was possible to try to make that development work and the funding sources just could not come together in order to make it happen." -says Thompson-Kelly.
The new plan is to create 40 apartments; studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom, with amenities like an exercise area, library, and laundry room. Also, Thompson-Kelly wants to set up offices inside the building for Veterans Affairs and the Rockford Police Department. She also wants local collage representatives to visit residents with information on education options. The goal is to get veterans back into the community once they come home.
Alderman Thompson-Kelly is pleased with Gorman & Company taking on the project, but she's not completely convinced.
"I want to see what they've done in other communities before they're given the final go-ahead for this one." -she says.
This is just the starting point for Gorman and Company developers. Thompson-Kelly says they'll be submitting many more proposals in front of city council, plus aldermen have to approve a final plan and drawing. There is no set start date for the project.
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