Understanding, civility highlight affordable housing discussion - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Understanding, civility highlight affordable housing discussion

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ROCKFORD (WREX) -

No yelling.  Shouting.  Just listening.

That's what happened Tuesday night for what may be the first time in a long time at a meeting about affordable housing in Rockford.

The roundtable discussion at Midway Village wasn't just about Fairgrounds Valley or South New Towne Drive.  It was about understanding what it all means for us as a community.

The night started with an outsider's perspective.

"We're sort of not your grandmother's affordable housing," said Christine Klepper, Executive Director of Housing Choice Partners out of Chicago.  "We're not talking about big, ugly high-rises that are separated from the rest of the world."

The Rockford Register Star hosted the roundtable.  Its reporters brought an insider up next.  Developer Sunil Puri.  He said this debate has polarized the community.

"Can this community afford 20 more of these fiascoes," said Puri.  "We don't get a third chance to make a first impression."

Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey said he regrets the way the New Towne development was presented to him, and others, in the beginning.

"We won't get that part right," said Morrissey.  "We've screwed it up. So we have an opportunity to learn from it; to say let's begin a dialogue tonight.  That we can continue throughout the City of Rockford and the region because there will be a phase two."

The impact of that first introduction was discussed by the aldermen who continues to hear the concerns from his New Towne constituents.

"What's happened at New Towne is that there is fear and anxiety, confusion and chaos," said Ald. Joe Chiarello.  "All the things the mayor's talked about and all of the things I've been talking about related to affordable housing, which is unfortunate."

Gorman's representative said his company wants to make it right so there's an understanding of who this is all about: residents.

"We will never suggest that responsible housing solutions are brought to the table just on Gorman's mind and experience alone," said Andre Blakley, the Illinois Market Director for Gorman.  "It takes creative partnerships and linkages, and I think if you look at the history of all our deals, whether we started out with the intent to do so or not, we naturally have a nonprofit relationship, a housing authority relationship because we want to be connected to that community."

The next roundtable discussion is Wednesday night.  It will feature a panel of residents and an even smaller audience.

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