Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Fairgrounds resident Gertrude Verner

Fairgrounds resident Gertrude Verner


Rockford city leaders believe tearing down a concentration of public housing will help build the community around it. Fairgrounds Valley is set to be demolished and redeveloped.

“The housing that is currently here is 210 units. We anticipate the housing that will be on this site will be 160 units.” -says Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer.

Clewer says this is an estimated $60 million project. Right now, Fairgrounds houses low to very-low income residents. New units on-site will be split up into thirds; low-income, moderate-income and market rate. Residents like Gertrude Verner will have to be re-located during the tear down and maybe even once it’s finished.

“I love that they gave me this apartment. I’m blessed that they gave it to me because I was homeless and it took that for me to open my eyes and know that I wanted more out of life and it’s out there for the taking.” -says Gertrude.

She’s lived in Fairgrounds since summer 2012. At one point, she wanted to leave and not come back. But then, Gertrude learned about community meetings for neighborhood improvement. Agencies like the Rockford Housing Authority wanted her and other residents’ input on how to make the area better. That includes redeveloping Fairgrounds, but it’s all part of a bigger plan, made up of more than 70 efforts for improvement in the Ellis Heights neighborhood, west of downtown Rockford. Agencies making it possible want community members there to have better access to education and jobs.

Gertrude believes this transformation will help her become more self-sufficient.

“It’s not about Fairgrounds like they said; it’s about all the communities, helping the communities. If someone is trying to help someone put something out there and better their life, then I feel like everybody needs to get involved.” -she says.

Project organizers say re-constructing Fairgrounds is still at least three years away. They’re currently applying for grants and tax credits, trying to find funding for the idea.

The full article is also available here, at WREX: