Jane Addams

Rockford Housing Authority eyes tax credits to restore mansions

By Brian Leaf, Rockford Register Star , May 06. 2014

ROCKFORD — Two historic homes near the Jane Addams Park Apartments may get a $1 million face-lift that would return them to their 19th century residential glory.

One idea being floated is to use the buildings for Rockford Housing Authority offices.

Bridge Rockford Alliance Inc., a partnership between the RHA and Wisconsin developer Gorman & Co., owns both properties and would use historic tax credits to help finance restoration of the properties at 510 and 520 S. Third St.

If the property is deemed eligible for historic tax credits, the partners could raise 40 percent or more of renovation costs by selling the credits to investors that want to lower their income tax exposure.

Gorman is planning to use state and federal historic tax credits to help finance redevelopment of the Amerock/Ziock building in downtown Rockford into a $52 million, 150-room hotel and convention center.

Gorman and RHA partnered on the Jane Addams Park Apartments, a 38-unit development for people with disabilities that opened in 2013. The apartments replaced an old and blighted 84-unit complex along College Avenue and Seminary Street south of downtown.

“Ultimately, the end goal on this is to make sure those houses get renovated in a historic manner that benefits the neighborhood,” said Ron Clewer, CEO of the housing authority.

Clewer said the partners bought both properties for about $60,000 from Home State Bank foreclosure proceedings.

Partners are still discussing how the restored properties might be used. One idea is to restore the homes as residences, but use them for RHA offices for 10 to 15 years. Then, after satisfying requirements of historic state and federal tax credit programs, the homes could be sold to private owners.

The renovations could be a pioneering project that Clewer said could stimulate other residential restorations and increase property values in what was once one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Clewer said RHA would have to get a special-use permit to put offices there. It could take nine months to get paperwork approved with city, state and federal governments.

The home at 510 S. Third St. was built in the 1850s by Gilbert Woodruff, a banker, developer, furniture company owner and mayor of Rockford from 1873-75. Jon Paul Agustsson, who owned the house, said the mansion was cut into four apartments when he bought it. He restored it to a single-family home and ran the Eden Foundation from it. His plan was to restore the house and property to its original grandeur, while providing a safe haven for neighborhood residents who work in gardens on the property.

“I bought that house across the street from Jane Addams because I wanted to help the single moms and their kids,” Agustsson said. “Five years ago I gave up the house. They tore down the projects. The buildings and at-risk moms went, too. My work was done.”

The house at 520 S. Third St. is 4,600 square feet. Records from the Rockford Township Assessors Office say it was built in 1900, but Assessor Ken Crowley said the year 1900 is a default number for properties that were built at or before the turn of the 20th century.

Sometime during its history the home was cut into four apartments. A historic renovation would return the property to the single-family home it once was and, eventually from an office to a home.

“Our end game is to make sure those homes are contributing to the historic nature of that neighborhood,” Clewer said.

Newly Constructed Jane Addams Park Apartments Now Open

Newly Constructed Jane Addams Park Apartments Now Open

By: Sabrina Santucci

Updated: May 9, 2013

Rockford- Hardwood floors, brand new appliances and a community center. The new Jane’s Nobel Village offers community style living for mixed-income residents with disabilities.

It was built on the grounds of what was Jane Addams Housing Project, a building plagued by crime in a neighborhood recently rated one of the 15 most dangerous in the entire nation.

Rockford Housing Authority’s Ron Clewer insists this project will reduce blight and not bring more.

“We made significant promises throughout this process that we would not only develop a high quality residential living facility, but we would operate it in a very high quality manner and that we would continue to maintain it that way,” said Clewer.

Clewer points out that the new apartments located at Seminary Street and College Avenue are near construction meant to revitalize the neighborhood.

Rockford’s Mayor Morrissey says this project is only the beginning.

“The public investments that we’re making in South Main and the Morgan Street Bridge, as well as the Riverfront, the new river pathways, that will be done in conjunction with some of the public works projects. This is all how we take advantage of the assets we have. And build a really strong foundation for a great neighborhood,” explained Morrissey.

That also includes renovating the nearby Brewington Oaks Apartment complex for seniors. Still some don’t agree with building public housing in neighborhoods already struggling with crime.

Clewer disagrees. “It’s happening in many neighborhoods it’s not just here. But we can serve as a catalyst to reverse those trends and that’s exactly what we want to do,” he said.