By Bob Balgemann, REPORTER

 Over the years the Village has had a successful program through which qualified residents were able to improve their homes. Since 2000, the Village received more than $3 million in grant funding, allowing 98 homes to be upgraded. That funding source dried up three years ago. But now changes at the state level have reopened the possibility that the Village can renew its program. Michelle Johannsen, Human Resources and Accounting Manager, gave the Village Board the good news at its Nov. 7 meeting. The State’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund now is handling the grant money, assuring that it will be available from year to year. Given that, Grants Administrator Tammy Scott has applied for $430,950 in funding, which would allow 10 homes to be rehabilitated. Once again the program will benefit low and very low-income homeowners. This time the Village’s share of the cost will be $15,280. Johannsen said Village staff time would be used to keep down the program’s administrative costs. In the past the Village would start accepting applications right after receiving approval for another year of funding. Two Girl Scouts would come to Village Hall in May, during a Village Board Meeting, and draw the names of six recipients from among the applicants. In 2013, the last year of the program, 44 homeowners applied for the $45,000 individual grants. Village Engineer Chris Dopkins said at the time the improvements helped bring houses up to local code requirements. Work primarily focused on roof and window repairs.

Promoting the Village

Also at the Nov. 7 Board Meeting, Economic Development Director James Richter II reported on attendance at a recent International Council of Shopping Center Owners (ICSC) marketing event at Navy Pier in Chicago. He went there with Village Administrator Tim Savage and they had booth space, in order to promote awareness of the Village and the Machesney Towne Center. “We received a number of ‘Where is Machesney Park?’ inquiries, which further justifies the reason for our being there,” Richter said. He explained that the ICSC is a global trade organization of about 30,000 shopping center owners, developers, retailers, real estate and governmental officials. “We met with several shopping center owners, who own space here in town,” he reported. “We continued to build our presence in the commercial market place and obtained a number of leads to follow in the coming months.”

The Village continues to market the 110,000-square-foot space once occupied by J.C. Penney Outlet. The plan is to lease 40,000 square feet in front for retail use, and have offices occupy the balance of the building. Village Board Members in a 5-2 vote Jan. 5, 2015, agreed to buy Penney’s portion of the former Machesney Park Mall for $900,000. Since then the Village’s Public Works Department has taken over 7,000 square feet for its operation.

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