GARY | The five-day blitz-build of one new home and renovation of two existing homes on the street where Michael Jackson lived is underway.

The Jackson Street of Dreams Build 2014 concludes Friday on what would have been the singer's 56th birthday. The build project is hosted by The Fuller Center for Housing of Gary, a nonprofit organization and affiliate of The Fuller Center for Housing, whose mission is to end poverty housing.

Linda Fuller-Degelmann, who co-founded Fuller and prior to that Habitat for Humanity with her late husband, Millard Fuller, took part in the blitz herself by helping Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson install windows.

Fuller-Degelmann said at first her organization was skeptical that its new Gary partner wanted do do a blitz build without first having built any homes.

"They only had a few months to organize it," she said. "But it's going well."

Jeff Cardwell, special assistant to Gov. Mike Pence, who toured the site Wednesday, has been helping out with the blitz build on the street where Jackson's birth home sits.

"Things are going tremendously well," he said.

Cardwell, who has a background in lumber and hardware, said all the money for the build is raised in the community along with help from sponsors like NIPSCO and the Indiana Department of Correction. He said people are selected to live in the new and renovated homes by a board of directors.

"It's not a giveaway program," Cardwell said. "They pay for the homes. All funds go back to the local chapter of Fuller for the next house. This is just the beginning. We're planting the seeds."

Families will be able to buy the homes for about $50,000 with a zero interest mortgage that is held by the Fuller Center for Housing of Gary.

Volunteers from throughout the country came to Gary to help with the build. Mike Dennis, of Ohio, said the people of Gary have made the outsiders feel at home.

"They have a desire to see this part of town restore itself," he said.

Sitting on her porch across the street from the Jackson home and watching the activity was Tanya Patterson. She said the project is redefining the neighborhood.

"I think it's a beautiful thing," she said.

Phyllis Barlow project coordinator for the build, said it's been a shot of energy to the community.

"Starting on Jackson Street is just the beginning," she said. "We're in partnership with the city to get these properties as they clear them for us and we'll be doing this in other neighborhoods and blocks around the city. We're trying to assist people who need a leg up and not a hand out." 

A dedication ceremony for the homes is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday.


Lake County reporter

Rob covers urban affairs and other matters in Crown Point, St. John, Winfield and beyond. Previously he covered Valparaiso, Hammond, Gary and East Chicago. He's also written for various magazines and pens a culture blog for The Times.