EAST ALTON — Residents may have noticed major changes to the look of East Alton in recent months with new homes and improvements popping up around the East Alton Keasler complex.
The Southwestern Illinois Development Authority, the village of East Alton and Rise Community Development have teamed up to build 46 single-family homes for a new residential area called Emerald Ridge.
The site consists of 34 colorful single-story and 12 two-story detached homes with two, three or four bedrooms. Tenants already are moving into the completed units as neighboring houses rise from the ground. The homes are designed to meet or exceed an Energy Star rating of 3.0 to ensure building quality and insulation. Five homes were designed to be fully accessible under Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. Each new home will have a two-car parking pad that provides off-street parking.
Along with the new homes, North Drive, East Drive, Ohio Street and the existing alley behind Ohio Street will be repaved. A new private drive along Wood River Avenue will serve to provide smoother traffic flow and convenient parking.
“McCormack-Baron is the management group for the new development,” East Alton Mayor Fred Bright said. “They are handling the application process for new tenants and will make the decisions on who will occupy the houses. There are reasonable restrictions for applicants; nothing that cannot be lived with, but there are guidelines that need to be met for new occupants. Included in the rent of the homes, they will have their grass cut in the summer and the snow removed in the winter.”
Funding for the project is provided through tax credit grants that keep Emerald Ridge a rental property for 15 years. Afterward, the homes can be sold to individual owners.
The land Emerald Estates rests on was developed in the early 1940s as worker housing for employees at the Olin munitions plant during World War II. The barracks-style housing was built to provide temporary homes that could fit as many people into as small an area as possible. The homes, nicknamed “the defense area,” were intended to be dismantled after the war but instead were sold to private owners.
“One thing that was important to me when I ran for office was the plan to fix up East Alton,” Bright said. “We wanted to get buildings up to code that were starting to deteriorate. We were having issues with absentee landlords and people that didn’t really care. Housing value drops when that happens and we want to help our community turn that around and be proud of their homes and neighborhoods.”
The portion of Emerald Ridge expected to be completed by late spring is the beginning of what East Alton Village Treasurer Joe Silkwood says is just the first phase.
“The developer presented drawings of the plans and it’s amazing how these homes look just like the designs,” Silkwood said. “We hope that with the success of this first leg of the program that more development can be funded to have another phase.”
Anyone interested in rental information or filling out an application for residency in the new Emerald Ridge subdivision can contact Tammie Townsend at (618) 225-7151 or Tammie.Townsend@McCormackBaron.com. Applicants must be at least age 18.
On the opposite side of East Alton, Eastgate Plaza is still on the minds of Bright and Silkwood.
“The gentleman who owns the property at Eastgate Plaza is not from our area and he doesn’t have any interest in developing in our community,” Bright said. “He doesn’t care and it’s a shame. The property is for sale, but at this time the price is unreasonable. We are hoping when the owner is ready to let the property go, the new owner will be interested in developing the property and will do quite a bit with it.”
One concern Bright and Silkwood have is the facility’s structural condition. Longtime tenant Illinois Wholesale Furniture relocated to Alton Square because of the roof’s condition at Eastgate.
“The current owner is not interested in making repairs,” Bright said. “Our hands are tied right now and it’s frustrating. He’s lost a lot of tenants because he’s not willing to invest back into the condition of the property. We hope a new owner will be able to come in and make some major changes. We are willing to work with whoever owns the property to help improve it for our community.”
Bright says before he retires he hopes to see his visions of community improvement continue to have success stories such as the East Alton Ice Arena, the Emerald Ridge subdivision and other projects.
From the desk of the East Alton Police Chief Dwynn Isringhausen, the police department has a new officer in the academy to replace K9 Officer Michael Young. Young left the department earlier this month to return to Wood River Police Department, where he was a cadet before starting his career at the EAPD.
“The new officer’s name is Marcus Wagner,” Isringhausen said. “Wagner is in the process of moving to East Alton from the Collinsville area and started the academy on the 13th of January. He will finish the academy the 22nd of March and will have some continued training. We hope he’ll be on the streets of East Alton in late June.”
The village of East Alton and the city of Wood River made an agreement on K9 Officer Degen to make the move with Young to serve the people in Wood River.
“We felt it was in the best interest of the people of East Alton that Degen keeps working,” Isringhausen said. “We have not considered at this time to replace Degen here at East Alton. Our first priority is to get our officer staff back up to working order before we consider another K9. We know that if we need the use of a K9 in our town, Wood River will be able to help with that need here in East Alton.”