There are groundbreakings, and there are heartfelt groundbreakings -- like the one that took place for new affordable housing for seniors in Elgin.
"We appreciate every one of you," Housing Authority of Elgin resident Elizabeth Odumuyiwa, who serves as association president for Central Park Tower, told a crowd of dignitaries during Tuesday's ceremony. "(We appreciate) what you have done to make our life easier, to be proud that we are living a good life."
The $33 million project to renovate the 11-story building at 120 S. State St. and construct a six-story building next door took intensive, dedicated work from various partners, including program management firm C. Ray Baker & Associates, Housing Authority of Elgin CEO Damon E. Duncan said.
The project, a public and private partnership, will yield 150 affordable housing units and 14 market rate units. Construction is scheduled to be completed late this year.
"A lot of folks here didn't think it could happen," Duncan said. "All it took was faith -- faith the size of a mustard seed -- and you can see great things happen."
Primary funding for the project came from the Illinois Housing Development Authority's low-income tax credit program and a mortgage through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Federal Housing Administration, plus several other funding sources, making Elgin's one of the nation's largest such projects, officials said.
HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Antonio Riley touted the benefits of the recently revamped federal rental assistance demonstration project, through which public housing authorities can tap into private funding sources to repair distressed public housing.
President Barack Obama is committed to creating "more ladders of opportunity" by implementing effective strategies to preserve affordable housing throughout the country, Riley said. About 10,000 units of public housing are lost each year due to disrepair, creating a $26 billion backlog in capital funding needs, he said.
"In today's political climate, do you see Congress appropriating $26 billion to close that backlog? No," he said, later adding, "(The rental assistance demonstration project) is an integral part of our long-term public housing plan throughout the country."
The Housing Authority of Elgin is embarking on one of Elgin's largest construction projects in recent memory, Mayor David Kaptain said.
The Elgin City Council approved the project in a 6-3 vote a year ago after discussions, at times heated, about whether the location was appropriate for the new building.
"At the end of the day, the most important thing is that it's going to create better conditions for the seniors that live here," Kaptain said.