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Affordable Housing Construction Underway In Rockford After Rocky Start

Ground was broken Tuesday on a housing development that’s seen as a critical step in changing the face of public housing in Rockford.

Officials who had a hand in the project sank gold-tone shovels into a strip of dry dirt piled on the muddy construction site on New Towne Drive. The new 49-family development will help move some residents out of the dilapidated Fairgrounds public housing development into scattered-site housing. Rosie Simmons was there for the groundbreaking; she is president of the residents council at Brewington Oaks, another old public housing development slated for replacement.

“I would like to live in some place like this when they tear down and rebuild. I would like to live in something like New Towne.” Simmons says. “Oh! The Grove!”

The Grove at Keith Creek, that is. That’s the new name for the development formerly known as New Towne. It had a controversial start, with some residents of the area loudly protesting the plan when a version of it was introduced two years ago. Andre Blakley is the Illinois Market President for the developer, Gorman and Company. He says the name change is to help transition into something positive after a rocky start.

The regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has worked closely with the city and the developer on this project. Antonio Riley used to work in housing finance in Wisconsin and says he learned a lot about housing issues in the area encompassing Beloit, Wis., and Rockford. That’s why he was eager to get to work in Rockford when he joined HUD under the Obama Administration. Riley says The Grove at Keith Creek is a great example of what public housing should look like today.

“We have been very focused on de-concentrating communities of segregated poverty and de-concentrating sites, and making them much more holistic, a part of the community. A community asset, not a drain on the community.”

The Grove is expected to be completed next Spring. Most of the homes will be rental, with potential for ownership. They’ll be one- and two-story townhome style units in three new residential buildings. There also will be a community center for residents.

Susan is an award-winning reporter/writer at her favorite radio station. She's also WNIJ's Perspectives editor, Under Rocks contributor, and local host of All Things Considered.
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