Home Rehabilitation: South Suburban Trades Initiative Begins Latest Project

Home rehabilitation on Marquette Street in Park Forest.
Photo by John Hudzik: 74 Marquette Street, Park Forest

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- Work began this week on the latest Park Forest home rehabilitation by the South Suburban Trades Initiative (SSTI). The two-bedroom house with a large family room located at 74 Marquette Street has been vacant for many years and will need significant repairs before it is ready for a new occupant.

SSTI is a cooperative arrangement between the village, South Suburban College, Prairie State College, and several area unions.  Funding for the repairs is made possible by a grant from the Strong Communities Program of the Illinois Housing Development Authority.  According to Hildy Kingma, Park Forest Director of Economic Development, the village recently received a grant of $250,000 to be used for the restoration of abandoned properties. The village’s Project Manager for this effort is David Tracy who was formerly the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in the South Suburban Chicago area.

Photo by Village of Park Forest: Interior of 74 Marquette Street showing bedroom ceiling damage from raccoon prior to clean-up

The work to be done at 74 Marquette is extensive.  Immediate repairs to the roof were required to address the damage caused by a raccoon above one of the bedrooms.  In addition, the site required a thorough interior and exterior clean-out to address a decade of neglect.  Wallboard throughout the house was removed due to mold and will be replaced, and interior floor tiles were removed to address an asbestos hazard. The detached garage also needs major repairs to address structural and roofing issues.

Photo by John Hudzik: Bedroom post-clean-up with wallboard removed.

Aside from a new roof and wallboard, the house will have all-new ventilation, windows, plumbing, heat pumps replacing the original radiant heat, and a fire sprinkler system.  Tracy believes the renovated houses “make for good buys. A house flipper will not do the same depth of work.  Basically, the new owner will have a new green, energy-efficient home.”

Photo by John Hudzik: Large family room post-clean-up with walls and ceiling stripped.

Not only do the renovations bring a blighted property back to life, but the program also provides valuable workforce development and training opportunities for students and union apprentices.

In the case of South Suburban College, the students are part of the Building Construction Technology program.  According to Eugene Damiani, the college’s Program Manager, there will be 8 or 9 students working on the house.  The Fall class is focused on the rough finishing of the house (wall framing, wiring, insulation, and plumbing).  The Spring class will focus on the finishing work necessary to ready the house for sale.

Damiani noted that, upon completion of their work, the students will be certificated for both new construction and rehab projects.

The students from Prairie State College are part of the Heating, Ventilation and A/C (HVAC) training curriculum.  They will be working on installing all-new environmental equipment, including the possible use of solar panels.

In addition to the work done by the students, support for the project is also offered by the apprentice programs of the Sprinkler Fitters Local 281, Painters District Council 14, and the Chicagoland Roofers’ Joint Apprentice and Training Committee – Local 11.

In all cases, these organizations donate the labor required for the work while the village is responsible for the cost of all needed materials.

Occasionally, the use of paid contractors is required.  For example, mold and asbestos removal requires specially trained and equipped workers as does the repair/replacement of the collapsed sewer pipe under the house.

Once the house is fully restored, it will be sold, and the profits (net of any village expenses) will be used to provide loans for needed rehabilitation of homes purchased from the South Suburban Land Bank.  Details of the loan plan are still under development according to Kingma.

Completion of the renovations is expected by the end of the Spring semester in May 2022. Hopefully, when the work is completed, residents will have the opportunity to visit during an Open House such as one held for a previous renovation.  However, due to COVID concerns, a decision on future events will be made at that time.

This will be Tracy’s fourth Park Forest renovation under the SSTI program.  Previous houses renewed are 305 Sauganash, 336 Early Street, and 117 Wilson.  The Wilson property is currently home to the Park Forest AmeriCorps volunteers and is scheduled to be on the market early this fall.

While with Habitat, Tracy oversaw the renovation of approximately 20 Park Forest houses from 2009 to 2013, following the 2008 housing recession.   The house on Marquette was selected by Tracy after reviewing the homes scheduled to be turned over to the Land Bank.  Another property will be selected for next year’s project.

Per the guidelines of the Strong Communities Program, $40,000 can be used for the external and internal renovation of a single property.  The previous grant received by the village covered only exterior repairs which ran between $20 and $25 thousand for each of the first three properties addressed.  Kingma expects that the village will have sufficient funds to rehab one more property via the SSTI program, as well as funds for demolitions and other rehab work on properties owned by the Land Bank or the village.

Kingma noted that the village will be sending a letter to the residents that live around/behind the Marquette house to inform them of the work being done.  Work on the home is typically done on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

eNews Park Forest will provide periodic updates on the progress of the home rehabilitation project over the next year.