Program in Rockford Aims to Make Vacant Homes Visually Pleasing

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Vacant homes flood the forest city.  Thousands need rehabilitation or demolition, but now organizations and Rockford leaders look to paint away the issue, by making them a bit more visually pleasing.  Residents like what they’ve seen so far.

“I turn around to my left and I see all this art work and think that’s kind of neat!” said Rockford Residents Kawana Smith. She is talking about a Kilburn condemned home.  Recycled material used to board up where windows used to be now painted with leaves.

 “We saw the opportunity to partner and bring in local resources as well,” said Rockford Community and Economic Director Karl Franzen.  The Decorative Board Up Pilot Program by the city, volunteers from The Neighborhood Foundation and students at YouthBuild get resources and coordination to change the way vacant homes look while saving the taxpayers some money..

“It really uplifts the neighborhood,” said Smith.  “You get tired of  looking outside and seeing boarded up houses and random people.”  Off Kilburn Avenue blighted homes are seemingly in every direction.

“When we have a traditional board up we have contractors who go up and secure the property,” said Franzen.  “So the contractors to do that certainly the material is a cost, labor is a cost.  We’re working to put pressue on property owners to redevelop.  We have a demolition process that we have funds for and take down certain number of homes a year so this is somewhere in the middle that is kind of a stop-gap.”

“Yet the faucet keeps dripping,” said YouthBuild Executive Director & CEO Kerry Knodle.  “We elminate three and two more come on, we eleminate three and four more come on.  As a community we have a ways to go.”  The home now sits with fresh cut grass and a cleaned up porch.

Smith says this is a positive twist to dealing with the vacant home issue in Rockford. “It’s a neighborhood.  It’s by the projects, by the swimming pool, there’s kids everywhere.  Who wants to go on the way to the swimming pool and look up and see an abandoned house? Nobody.”

The Decorative Board Up Program is set to take up two other residential properties and a commercial property in August.

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