Skip to contents
Roseland, Pullman

South Side Developers Want To Invest In Roseland But Need More Government Help Overcoming Rising Costs, They Say

One developer who rehabbed a five-bedroom home on Normal Avenue said she walked away with just $3,000 profit "for a whole year's worth of work."

Homes at 113th Street and Forest Avenue are covered in snow in the Roseland community on Feb. 7, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
  • Credibility:

ROSELAND — South Side developers rehabbing single-family homes and smaller multi-family projects are calling for more city support in Roseland, as rising construction costs and low property values threaten to scare off investors and homeowners from buying into the community.

Developer Bonita Harrison, who owns Sunshine Management, recently finished rehabbing a 5-bedroom home at 11311 S. Normal Ave. Though the home sold for $310,000 in January, Harrison walked away with just $3,000 profit “for a whole year’s worth of work,” she said.

The skyrocketing cost of materials — especially lumber — have made stories like Harrison’s a common occurrence in neighborhoods like Roseland, developers said at a development town hall Tuesday hosted by the Cook County Land Bank and city officials. Racial and geographic inequities in appraisals can also deter investment, attendees said.

Smaller developers are “trying to reinvest in our community to bring it up to a particular standard,” Harrison said. “Are you telling me to leave this property vacant and leave it as an eyesore for drugs and issues? No, we need to look at these properties, we need to deal with them and rehab them — but how do we do that?”

To address this, the city and its partners must provide more targeted support — not only boosting the funding available to housing developers, but improving access to existing funding, said DaJuan Robinson, president of DNA Construction.

The land bank provides low-cost land and technical support for developers, “breaking down some barriers to entry for us,” Robinson said.

But funds to offset construction, permitting and other costs “have to be available just as easy,” Robinson said. He also called on city officials to work more closely with new developers about the specific issues they’re facing with their projects, rather than relying on third-parties to share broader concerns.

“We’re trying to understand what will allow us to move quicker, move better, move more efficient,” said Candice Payne, a developer with Blu Box Homes and a lender with Greystone Mortgage Bank. She’s worked to redevelop more than 15 land bank properties in Roseland and elsewhere on the South Side, she said.

“If we have the ability to do more we will — we just have to have the resources,” Payne said. We can’t be beating up our own pockets, because then we take our dollars to other communities where our dollars make more money at.”

As officials strategize to revive Roseland, they must address the “lack of resources, dilapidated properties and vacant land” in communities across the South Side as well, Harrison said.

“The blight that [Roseland] is facing, the issues that we face, it’s a common thread that runs throughout the South Side,” she said. “The issues that a person in Roseland has are the same issues that we have in Greater Grand Crossing are the same issues that we have in Bronzeville.”

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
A train passes over Michigan Avenue near 116th Street in the Roseland community on Feb. 7, 2022.

What Programs Are Available To Developers In Roseland?

The Department of Planning and Development, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Cook County Land Bank shared strategies for redeveloping Roseland’s vacant land and supporting the neighborhood’s growth at Tuesday’s meeting.

City planners discussed its Invest South/West initiative in Roseland. The initiative’s “priority corridor” in the neighborhood stretches along 111th Street from Wentworth to Michigan avenues, and on Michigan from 110th to 115th Streets.

Officials also shared with developers details on the Chicago Recovery Plan, Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, Small Business Improvement Fund and TIF purchase rehab programs.

The department’s Roseland Medical District plan is expected to head to the Plan Commission in the next couple months, city planner Erika Sellke said. A draft plan will be available this month for public input.

The city should consider expanding its programs’ impact on residential areas, as the programs highlighted Tuesday seem to prioritize commercial or mixed-use developments on main corridors, Robinson said.

“The [Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and] all that is geared toward commercial development,” Robinson said. “If we’re in these communities building single-family and multi-family properties, we can’t utilize those funds.”

Cook County Land Bank Executive Director Eleanor Gorski floated the idea of a pilot program in Roseland to address concerns about a lack of available funding for housing developments.

A CTA representative shared updates on the Red Line extension project, as three of the proposed stops — at 103rd Street, 111th Street and Michigan Avenue — would be in the neighborhood. Construction on the Red Line extension is planned to begin in 2025, with service expected to start in 2029.

The CTA “is not a developer,” but its Transit-Supportive Development Plan is a “guidebook” for creating housing diversity and preserving affordability as the new stations are built, said Leah Mooney, the agency’s director of strategic planning and policy. The agency worked with the planning department and land bank to draft the plan.

The land bank aims to complement the city’s work by selling its large swaths of vacant properties in Roseland for redevelopment, officials said.

Many Roseland properties “have been in this limbo of cycling through bad tax shares year after year,” Gorski said. “We’re looking to interrupt that.”

There’s “so many different bits and pieces” explaining how properties in Roseland were abandoned, “and for us to correct it, it’s going to take a while,” acquisition specialist Elisha Sanders said. “It’s going to take the help of all of these agencies.”

Also on hand for the meeting were representatives from Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, who gave an overview of the nonprofit community developer’s Roseland Rising plan, and the Roseland-based Hope Center Foundation.

Information on the programs is always useful, but it’s up to small developers to act on that knowledge, Freda Madison said.

Along with her husband Kevin, their firm Madison Enterprises purchased and rehabbed homes from the land bank at 99th Street and Parnell Avenue and at 111th Street and Normal Avenue, Madison said.

“Applying the knowledge is power,” she said. “Start using it and following up on the different resources that you have.”

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.