CHICAGO | Cook County government will receive at least $30 million in federal funds to create a loan guarantee program meant to bolster the possibility of real estate development in areas near existing rail transit lines.
The County Board voted without opposition Wednesday to accept funds from the Housing and Urban Development Department, which will be used to create a program to be called Broadening Urban Investment to Leverage Transportation.
The program is meant to make it easier for entities interested in developing real estate to receive low-interest loans, if the projects are within proximity (defined in most cases as within a half-mile) of transit lines.
“We will be an active participant in this program,” County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said.
Antonio Riley, director of HUD’s Midwest region, said this funding is among $240 million the federal government has provided to 43 communities in recent years.
Herman Brewer, the county's Economic Development bureau chief, said some development may take place in areas along the Metra Electric line that runs from Millennium Park Station downtown to University Park. But much more is likely to occur in areas that are near freight train lines carrying cargo.
Edward Paesel, director of the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, was present for Wednesday’s announcement following the County Board meeting. He said his organization has identified several areas near the Canadian National railroad tracks in Homewood and Harvey that could qualify for loans through the program.
He said his group will help business interests apply for the loans, which Brewer said must be approved by February 2014 to qualify for the program.
The number of projects that receive financial support through the program will depend on their size, he said. However, three to 10 projects could receive funding and he expects most will be in southern and western Cook County near freight train lines.
County Commissioner Joan Patricia Murphy, D-Crestwood, who represents much of the area along the Illinois-Indiana border, said she was pleased to see a program that would benefit the south suburbs.
“It’s something that’s definitely needed; it will provide help for those companies in our part of the county,” she said.