Round Lake Beach building up neighborhoods by tearing down homes
So what had the vacant house next door been like?
"A lot of cats and animals," said Tere Caballaro, a resident on Juneway Terrace in Round Lake Beach since 1991. "Raccoons."
Community Development Director Lisa Pugliese offers a similar perspective.
"It was in pretty dire shape," she said of the little blue home at 1218 Juneway Terrace left vacant for seven years. "There was no fixing that house up. It needed to be demolished."
And so it went Wednesday morning as a lone excavator operator reduced the house and garage to rubble in about 40 minutes.
"Very good," noted Caballaro, who watched the demolition for a while before heading to work.
Round Lake Beach for several years has acquired and either rehabbed and resold or demolished about two dozen homes in town.
The effort to improve neighborhoods by targeting vacant and foreclosed properties has become more comprehensive since last year. A new local law creates a registry of properties considered public nuisances or abandoned.
"It's a matter of wanting to alleviate blight," Pugliese said. "Whether we do it or an owner comes forward, we consider it a win."
In the last year, the village has begun the legal process on about 40 properties. The home at 1218 Juneway was one of the first determined to be abandoned, in part because there have been no payments on the water bill for two years.
"That's the fifth house we've torn down," Pugliese said. "We've got another nine we'll be tearing down in the coming months. It's a long process."
The Illinois Housing Development Authority has given the village $600,000 to help with the effort. With the number of foreclosures and vacancies in Round Lake Beach, the state decided it was a worthy investment, Pugliese said.
She isn't alone in pursuit of problem properties in the village. The Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County, with $2 million from the Illinois attorney general's office, has been working on acquiring, rehabbing and reselling 50 distressed properties in Round Lake Beach and Mundelein.
The source of those funds was a national settlement against financial institutions involved in the foreclosure crisis, according to Rob Anthony, CEO of the housing corporation.
Distressed properties shunned by investors are the targets, with about 30 of them in Round Lake Beach, Anthony said. The agency, with help from another funding source, purchased and is nearly done rehabbing a home on the corner at 1208 Juneway Terrace.
"That particular home was in really bad shape," Anthony said.
The work to improve Juneway Terrace, a quiet street with century-old trees, isn't limited to tearing down nuisances. Last year, Juneway and other neighborhood streets were repaved.
Caballaro said she was happy the village demolished the house next door and would be interested in buying the lot.
"We're required to leave the lot vacant for three years," Pugliese said. "When it gets to be time, we'll be taking a more global look."