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ROCKFORD — Rockford Housing Authority officials will partner with Wisconsin-based Gorman & Co. to redevelop Brewington Oaks towers, the former Jane Addams public housing complex site and the surrounding neighborhood.

The RHA board settled on Gorman after interviewing several developers with backgrounds in similar redevelopment projects. It has authorized RHA administrators to negotiate a development agreement with the company.

Impressive record
RHA acting Executive Director John Cressman said the board was impressed with Gorman’s track record in redeveloping out-of-date public housing stock and developing mixed-finance neighborhoods. The goal is to revitalize the Brewington Oaks site, former Jane Addams campus and surrounding neighborhood.

“We were impressed with their ability to revitalize challenged neighborhoods that may or may not already include public housing, but we saw many examples of where they took a challenged neighborhood and integrated a mixed finance development that included market-rate housing and turned the neighborhood around,” Cressman said.

He said the RHA will work with Gorman to come up with an ambitious plan for redevelopment of the towers and the neighborhood. An equal mix of market-rate, affordable housing and public housing is the ultimate goal, with new retail establishments sprinkled into the area.

It’s all part of a new approach the RHA is taking to public and affordable housing, following a national trend.

Spreading out
Instead of the traditional stockpiling of public housing concentrated in a single location, the idea is that a more scattered housing approach would improve Rockford neighborhoods instead of acting as a drain, which Cressman said was the case in the past.

Gorman will develop a market study to determine precisely what mix of housing stock is needed in the neighborhood. That will include a review of Brewington Oaks to determine what demand there is for condominiums in the towers. Within the towers, there could be a mix of market-rate and low-income condominiums or rentals.

Counting on grants
But the project also is heavily dependent on whether it can receive more than $20 million in federal HOPE VI grants and other financing sources. Once a plan and designs are developed for the revitalization project, an application will be filed for the HOPE VI grant.

“We think the stars are kind of all aligned for this project,” Cressman said. “This is our best shot.”

Staff writer Jeff Kolkey can be reached at 815-987-1374 or at jkolkey@rrstar.com.