Program stimulating housing in Rock Island

Quad City Times
August 8, 2010
By: Kurt Allemeier

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but there is a whole lot going on inside the house at 800 21st St., Rock Island.

The house, one of 17 recently foreclosed properties in Rock Island, is being renovated with money provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus program. Fifteen workers under Kewanee, Iowa-based general contractor John Summy have been working on the house, replacing the roof, improving the wiring, putting in a new water heater and furnace, replacing windows and painting.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., toured the two-story, two-bedroom house Sunday.

“The dramatic increase of foreclosures in cities and towns across America is at the heart of the economic crisis,” Durbin said. “The Quad-Cities competed fiercely for the vast majority of the funding the community received.”

Rock Island received Neighborhood Stabilization grants of $3.1 million and $18.6 million to rehabilitate homes in the targeted Broadway neighborhood. The city is sharing the $18.6 million grant with Sterling, Ill., and Moline.

“In this neighborhood we’ve already committed to $2 million,” said Brian Hollenback, president of Rock Island Economic Growth Corp. “We had a list of 100 properties, and some we drove by really quickly. Others, like this one, we came in and bought.”

Summy’s company also is working on two other houses owned by the economic growth group. The city also plans to tear down 14 houses and rebuild on the site and complete other projects, such as Jackson Square Apartments, the former Illinois Oil Building at 24th Street and 4th Avenue, Mayor Dennis Pauley said.

“Projects like this are more and more important as we fight to jumpstart our economy and create jobs,” Hare said. “It puts people to work, improves property values for struggling neighborhoods and provides quality, affordable housing.”

Republican Bobby Schilling, who faces Hare in the Nov. 2 election, said he is still holding his nose toward the stimulus plan, but recognizes that Rock Island has good use for it.

“Having been born and raised in the historical Broadway section of Rock Island, I know and understand firsthand, the needs of this area,” he said. “This type of project in the stimulus is much more tolerable than the $308 million in subsidies given to British Petroleum during the week before the oil spill.

“To fix this area, a lot more needs to be done,” he said. “Too many people around here are without a job, and we need to train them and get them back in the work force. The stimulus, overall, has failed at that.”

During the tour, Durbin took a moment to lash out at banks that have slowed lending to homebuyers and small businesses.

“Hopefully, the banks will come around and start negotiating with people,” he said. “I think the banks are being too stubborn right now.”