EAST CHICAGO | Ground was broken Monday for the first in a series of new single-family homes planned for the old Washington High School site in Indiana Harbor.
The East Chicago Redevelopment Commission is building six all-brick multistory residences. Buyers will be eligible for as much as $30,000 in forgivable down-payment assistance through a mix of local and federal funds.
"This is a new beginning," Mayor Anthony Copeland said. "The renaissance of home ownership in East Chicago starts here."
New home construction at the site actually began more than a decade ago under the aegis of the East Chicago Second Century Corp., a for-profit company financed by casino money through an early development agreement.
Work at the subdivision, dubbed Washington Square, stalled as Second Century became embroiled in lawsuits sparked by the dismantling of the city's former political apparatus. The property was inherited by the nonprofit Foundations of East Chicago last year.
The Foundations donated the plots to the city, said Maria Becerra, Redevelopment Department executive director, and $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will be used to build the houses and provide some of the buyers' assistance.
The City Council earlier this year bolstered the incentive program with $200,000 in down-payment funds for purchasers whose incomes exceeded limits for eligibility in the federal program.
Several designs, all with multiple bathrooms, full basements and attached garages, are available for the homesteads from Steger-based Phillippe Builders, which will construct the houses.
"The project has been a long time coming," Copeland said. "It's taken 22 months. But we've got the price point where we want it, and it's a win, win, win."
As the homes are sold, the money will be returned to a revolving fund to build more homes, Copeland said, including entire blocks planned along Deodar Street in the North Harbor area.
Since last year, the city has conducted regular workshops to familiarize potential home buyers with available properties and the incentive programs.
For information about the workshops, visit www.eastchicago.com or call the Redevelopment Department at (219) 391-8513.