Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) poses with Kayla Liggins and her father, Henry Liggins, in front of their new home in Englewood's Hope Manor Village. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

ENGLEWOOD — When a nonprofit group approached Ralph Liggins about moving to Englewood, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

Then he saw the home — and fell in love.

“It’s beautiful. I was really surprised because they wouldn’t let me see it,” said Liggins, who once lived in the area before moving out.

Liggins’ new home is part of Hope Manor Village, an affordable housing development in East Englewood that was unveiled Tuesday. The Air Force veteran and his daughter, Kayla, will be the first tenants.

The venture is a collaboration between more than a half-dozen organizations. Representatives from those groups, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Ald. Stephanie Coleman (16th) were on hand for Tuesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the development, 5922 S. Green St.

When the project ends in February 2021, 12 two-flats (like the one pictured above) and four three-flats will house 36 veterans and their families. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

Hope Manor Village is part of a larger $15 million plan to provide veterans affordable housing while bringing sorely needed economic development to the Southwest Side, with a special emphasis on revitalizing the 63rd Street corridor via Lightfoot’s INVEST South/West initiative.

The first phase of the project by faith-based nonprofit Volunteers of America, the 73-unit Hope Manor II, was completed in 2014. The final product will be Englewood 21, a “reimagined neighborhood center that will offer important amenities and resources” to Englewood residents.

When the project wraps up in February 2021, it will have replaced 16 vacant lots with 36 furnished apartments spread among a mix of 12 two-flat and four three-flat buildings on the 5900 and 6000 South Green Street and the 5900, 6000 and 6100 blocks South Peoria Street. Two units will be available for move-in each month until then.

Organizers hope the project will also create a pathway to home ownership, with tenants paying 30 percent below market rate and the groups making community resources available to assist in the transition.

Visitors were able to take a tour of the Liggins’ new two-bedroom home, which came furnished. Credit: Jamie Nesbitt Golden/Block Club Chicago

Nancy Hughes Moyer, president of Volunteers of America, canvassed the area and decided to put her social worker training to use to “be part of the solution” to get resources to the area.

“It’s one thing to see vacant lots and boarded-up homes on TV; it’s entirely different to experience it from 10 feet away,” Hughes Moyer said.

“Kids notice the things in their neighborhood. If a third grader walks past vacant lots and boarded-up buildings, what does it say to that child? What is it telling them about their value?”

For Liggins, returning to his old neighborhood to move into a beautiful, modern home is a blessing, and it gives him hope for Englewood’s future.

“Whatever I can do to be a part of it, I’m willing to do,” he said.

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