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Local

Decision pays off for Sterling, again

A partnership that saw the full potential of empty space at Lawrence building earns state award

Lawrence Lofts, celebrated as the city's first major downtown residential development, is now receiving a state accolade. The $5.6 million, collaborative project is the winner of the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Jon Linfield Award, given for innovation and excellence in affordable housing in a rural community.
Lawrence Lofts, celebrated as the city's first major downtown residential development, is now receiving a state accolade. The $5.6 million, collaborative project is the winner of the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Jon Linfield Award, given for innovation and excellence in affordable housing in a rural community.

STERLING – Lawrence Lofts, celebrated as the city’s first major downtown residential development, is now receiving a state accolade.

The $5.6 million project, a collaboration between the city, Sterling Today and Rock Island-based Economic Growth Corp., is the winner of the Illinois Housing Development Authority’s Jon Linfield Award. The award is given for innovation and excellence in affordable housing in a rural community.

The nonprofit Economic Growth Corp. took the lead on redeveloping the long-vacant second through fifth floors of the Lawrence Building into 20 affordable rental units.

Funding sources for the development included federal and state housing tax credits, Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago Affordable Housing Program, Sterling Today, and City of Sterling Tax Increment Financing.

The nonprofit, which puts together financing for development projects on a national scale, has worked with the city on several other housing initiatives. Since 2009, the partnership has included work through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2, the Illinois Attorney General National Foreclosure Settlement Funds, and several revitalization and repair programs for single-family homes throughout the city.

“Teaming up with them is one of the best decisions Sterling has ever made,” Mayor Skip Lee said. “They are visionaries, and as a nonprofit, success is its only agenda.”

The mayor said the city has talked to its Rock Island partners about an enormous project – riverfront development.

“We’re going to need many partners for the riverfront, including state and federal government,” Lee said.

The city wants to bring together as many local viewpoints on the riverfront as possible, and Economic Growth Corp. excels at bringing people to the table.

“There will always be differences of opinion on how these projects are done, but we want diverse interests represented for figuring out what the riverfront will ultimately look like,” Lee said.

The last riverfront development price tag the city has seen was an estimated $60 million and that dates back at least 7 years. Sterling will need a powerful partner like Economic Growth Corp. to help with the numbers.

“I’d like to see Rock Island lead the riverfront development efforts,” Lee said. “They are good at looking at figures and telling you how realistic a project is.”

The Lawrence Lofts award reinforces the value of partnerships, Lee said. In addition to Rock Island, the work of the local development organizations played a key role.

“There have been naysayers about the Growth Corp., and this is a great example of the quality work they do,” Lee said. “The work of our local groups like Sterling Today, Main Street and Greater Sterling Development Corp. often fly under the radar.”

Economic Growth Corp. President and CEO Brian Hollenback, and Amy Clark, multifamily development director at the nonprofit, were to present the award at Monday’s City Council meeting.

OTHER WINNERS

Winners of the Illinois Housing Development Authority's Jon Linfield Award since its inception in 2010:

• 2010 – Downtown Commons, Jacksonville – MCHA Civic Services Corp.

• 2012 – Windsor Lexington Farms Subdivision, Jerseyville – Capstone Development, LLC

• 2013 – Homeless to Homebuyer Program, Marion – Southern Illinois Coalition For The Homeless

• 2014 – Housing Rehabilitation Programs/various communities – Western Illinois Regional Council, Macomb

• 2015 – Plowfield Square, Lincoln – Brinshore Development, LLC

• 2016 – Maple Ridge Apartments, Paris – Laborers Home Development Corp.

• 2017 – Macoupin Homes, Gillespie, Bunker Hill, Staunton – Macoupin County Housing Authority

• 2018 – Lawrence Lofts, Sterling – Rock Island Economic Growth Corp.

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