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Photo by Andrew Richards
Stephen Acree, president and executive director of RISE, addresses the crowd Monday, Feb. 10, at the groundbreaking ceremony for Emerald Ridge, an East Alton redevelopment project to bring 46 affordable single-family homes to the area. From left are East Alton Treasurer Joe Silkwood, Mayor Fred Bright and Madison County Chairman Alan Dunstan.
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Submitted by RISE
Depiction of a one-story single-family home in the soon-to-be completed Emerald Ridge project in East Alton.
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Submitted by RISE
Depiction of a two-story single-family home in the Emerald Ridge project.
EAST ALTON – Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion may not be traveling in the bunch, but East Alton residents are on their way to their very own Emerald City.
Or as RISE, a St. Louis community developer, calls it: Emerald Ridge – a project to bring 46 affordable single-family homes to East Alton, formerly called Emerald, by spring 2015. RISE officials say the first leg - 12 homes - of the project will be completed by this summer.
Village officials, along with congressmen, State Rep. Dan Beiser (D-Alton), State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), Madison County Board Chairman Alan Dunstan, and several local, statewide and nonprofit agencies came together Feb. 10 to break ground on the $15.7 million venture.
“It’s been a two-year process,” said Stephen Acree, president and executive director of RISE on working with the village to get the project up and going. “The village’s hope and ours is having it be a catalyst to continue to develop that area economically.”
The project will sit on land commonly referred to as the “defense area” - two blocks that stretch north up East Drive to Reed Drive, west to Ohio Street, south to Third Street and east toward East Drive again.
The area once had 18 buildings with 80 housing units, built in the early 1940s as worker housing for the Olin munitions plant at the outbreak of World War II.
The “barracks-style” buildings were originally supposed to be temporary and dismantled following the war.
That never happened, and over the years the buildings were re-sold multiple times, leading to responsible property owners and then some not-so-accountable. Drugs came onto the scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.
“I remember when it was safe enough to walk to high school and back,” said Beverly Werts, who lived in the “defense area” at 703 Reed Drive for a time with her mother, Evelyn Mahanay, and her sisters, Deborah and Candice. “Now, I’m not so sure that I would.”
Mahanay bought their house in 1954 for $2,500 but sold it in 1989 when the neighborhood started turning into rental property.
She and Werts agree the new project will be “such an improvement” for the neighborhood.
East Alton Mayor Fred Bright said the village has been working on getting the project to fruition for the past decade.
“This was my dream,” Bright said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Six people sat there on that board at different times and agreed with me that this what we have to do. Thank goodness they did because we kept a united front which also kept people from saying, ‘Well, we don’t want to spend that kind of money.’”
Acree said PNC Multi-Family Capital invested $11 million in the project with most of the rest coming from lenders: Madison County, Illinois Housing Development Authority and PNC Bank.
The money will go to building homes that are well-insulated, meeting or exceeding Energy Star 3.0 standards, have low-flow fixtures, highly reflective roofing and high-efficiency mechanical systems, according to a RISE press release.
Each home will feature two-car parking pads, totaling 92 off-street parking spaces. There will be a private drive alongside Wood River Avenue that will allow a smooth traffic flow and more parking for new residents.
Mark Stroker, RISE’s Director for Real Estate Development, said new tenants will be able to rent homes for $325 to $735 a month or enlist in the lease-to-purchase program, where they can own the homes after 15 years.
“I think it will be a community,” Werts said. “Kids will be able to ride their bikes around the neighborhood and it will feel like a community again.”
For information on how to apply for housing at Emerald Ridge, contact Stroker at 314-333-7005 or firstname.lastname@example.org.