How Round Lake Park is trying to eliminate eyesores, upgrade neighborhoods
Were it not for a solid foundation, the abandoned home at 119 Bellevue Drive in Round Lake Park likely would have been demolished.
Instead, the battered little blue house will be rehabbed and eventually sold as the village's first use of a program to improve neighborhoods.
Round Lake Park officials got the ball rolling last summer by having the property legally declared abandoned and transferred to village ownership via judicial deed.
It subsequently was sold for $1 to the Affordable Housing Corporation of Lake County, which has rehabbed hundreds of homes in Round Lake Beach, Mundelein and other Lake County communities.
"We want to clean our town up, fix up these eyesores," said Mayor Linda Lucassen. "We're partnering with people who have the same vision we do."
The Bellevue Drive house is the first product of an ordinance that allows the village to obtain vacant properties and then rehab or demolish them through fast track and judicial deed procedures.
"The purpose is to improve property values of surrounding homes and address safety and aesthetic issues," explained Alice Templin, the village's neighborhood services director.
AHC has been targeting deteriorating properties that don't have enough return on investment for private investors to get involved.
As of Jan. 1 it merged with Community Partners for Affordable Housing and Lake County Residential Development Corporation into a new organization called Community Partners for Affordable Housing, which offers an array of services.
"We're all not-for-profits but we all had our niche," said Michael Mader, AHC president. "It made sense to merge."
Homes in the Bellevue Drive home's neighborhood are generally small, starter-type structures occupied by residents of modest means. Some are cottages built when the area was popular for weekend getaways.
The house was built in 1940 with 854 square feet of living space and modified over time. It has been vacant more than five years, sustained substantial water damage from roof leaks and became a breeding ground for feral cats.
On a 1 to 10 scale of condition, this one is "probably a two or three," Mader said last week during a visit.
"I've seen worse," Mader said. "It's got potential."
The interior has been cleared and gutted and a new roof installed in advance of planned renovations. The home should be ready for market in three or four months. It's considered a break-even project, at best.
But making money isn't the goal for the organization or community leaders trying to address vacant properties, which can be a lengthy and complicated process, especially in a small town with limited resources.
Round Lake Park is acquiring another home and is working on a third.
"It's not easy for us. People see an abandoned property (and say,) 'Why doesn't the village do something?'" Lucassen said.
"This is new to us," she added. "We're learning as we go, so to speak."