Emerson Park Neighborhood Revitalization Plan

[ Contents ]


Objective: Encourage reinvestment & expand affordable housing options for renters & homeowners.


Ongoing population loss has weakened the demand for housing in East St. Louis’s older residential neighborhoods causing widespread housing abandonment. The number of residential dwelling units in Emerson Park has dropped from 1,246 to 657 between 1980 and 1990. Lower housing demand in areas like Emerson Park has prompted local lenders to reduce the supply of home mortgages and improvement loans to these neighborhoods. Tight credit has made it difficult for local residents to finance needed home repairs causing the percentage of homes in deteriorated and dilapidated condition to rise. Poor housing conditions have caused the number of unoccupied homes to increase to 84, producing more than 55 to 75 units in need of immediate inspection for demolition to protect the health, welfare and safety of local residents.

Homeownership in Emerson Park has fallen from 54% in 1960 to 33% in 1990. These homeowners are typically paying $514.00 per month on mortgage costs. This cost is prohibitive to increased ownership, because the median income in Emerson Park is $6,738. Homeowners must pay almost 75% of their income on housing costs. In comparison, St. Clair homeowners pay only 28% of their monthly income on mortgage costs. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that no more than 30% of a household’s income go to cover housing costs. The ratio of homeownership costs to income in Emerson Park places residents at a major disadvantage for owning their own home.

Renters do not fare much better in Emerson Park. The percentage of renters in the neighborhood has remained relatively stable, while the type of rental unit has changed greatly. More rental units are part of project based subsidized developments and homes that were previously held in mortgages. The East St. Louis Public Housing Authority has greatly reduced the number of public housing units in the neigborhood and is currently constructing 64 replacement townhomes. The average Emerson Park renter spends 35% of his/her household income on rent. Again, this figure is above the national recommendation of 30% and exceeds the St. Clair County average of 29%.

Immediate action is needed to prevent the further decline of Emerson Park’s residential housing stock. An ambitious program of home-owner education, demolition, marketing, housing rehabilitation and new construction is needed. The neighborhood needs to attract middle-income renters and owners to further stabilize the area. Without such actions, Emerson Park could, in the face of intense traffic activity to be generated by the proposed MetroLink station at 15th Street and Baugh Avenue, cease to exist as a working-class neighborhood. The huge volumes of traffic with its related environmental problems may prompt more long-term residents to consider abandoning the area. Further weakening of Emerson Park’s residential housing stock will hasten the area’s transformation into a transportation and commercially-oriented district.

Emerson Park is an important residential neighborhood to preserve given its highly visible location at the intersection of Interstates 55/70 and 64. The considerable investments of the East St. Louis Housing Authority and Bi-State Transportation agency dramatically improves the chances of successfully stabilizing this area. The amount of vacant land, which is under public control, will greatly accelerate the process of building new affordable and mixed-income housing. The combination of the neighborhood’s location, the planned Metro Link Station and the amount of publicly-owned vacant land have recently generated interest from three major developers within the greater St. Louis Metropolitan Region.

Parsons Place Development

The Emerson Park neighborhood will soon be home to the largest new market rate housing development the City has seen in nearly three decades (Map 4.1). McCormack Baron & Associates of St. Louis, in partnership with the Emerson Park Development Corporation, have been awarded housing tax credits to finance a $25 million, 201-unit, 67 building housing development. The development is located in the southeast quadrant of the neighborhood, adjacent to the new MetroLink extension. The new apartments will be available to low and moderate income renters, as well as renters seeking market rate units. Forty percent of the units will rent at market rates for between $300 and $550 per month depending on the size and style of the units. The remaining units will have subsidized rents. In addition to 201 new housing units, the Parsons Place project will also include extensive new infrastructure investments from public sources and private sources.

Past McCormack Baron projects in Cleveland and St. Louis have been very successful at encouraging complimentary growth in economic development and education. Their approach is unique in that it focuses on sustaining neighborhoods to build community capacity. The site of Parson’s Place is now largely vacant, except for a few homes and a Mosque that will remain intact. The few residents in the 12-block area have first option at moving into the new development. A phase two of Parsons Place, one hundred single-family homes, is proposed for just north of the future Metro Link station. Groundbreaking for Phase 1 is scheduled for August 1999.

EPDC Housing Accomplishments

In addition to the latest plans for Parsons Place, over the last seven years EPDC has made great strides in housing development that includes acquisition, rehabilitation, new construction and sales. Below is a list of EPDC’s major housing and housing related accomplishments.

Map 4.1: Parsons Place


A. Home-ownership / Home Improvement Seminars

Emerson Park contains 396 single-family homes. This housing type makes up 85% of all housing units in the neighborhood. The majority of these units were built between WW I and WW II. While 36% of these units are in good condition, 64% are in fair or poor condition and in need of major rehabilitation. Resident owners need information regarding basic home maintenance and rehabilitation which will enable them to complete necessary self-help repairs and secure additional professional resources. EPDC should work with the Neighborhood Technical Assistance Center staff to organize a Home Improvement Seminar that could start out as a one-day event and evolve into a series providing such information as interior/exterior painting, dry wall repair, major appliance maintenance, landscaping, etc.

In March 1998, a one-day Home-Ownership / Improvement Seminar was hosted by the Edgemont Neighborhood Association as part of the implementation of the Edgemont Neighborhood Improvement Plan. The seminar was very successful with over 100 local residents attending. The seminar presented information booths by area businesses, home security companies, financial institutions, technical advisors, the East St. Louis Police Department and new housing developers. The positive feedback confirmed that residents city-wide are interested in home ownership and improvement information. A majority of the residents indicated that they would attend future fairs and even assist in planning them. The completed report on the fair is available through the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois. The Emerson Park Development Corporation can contact Flossie Hunt—president, or another member of the Edgemont Neighborhood Association, for more information about organizing this program.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1

The development of new single-family homes in Emerson Park coupled with the declining conditions of existing housing, mandates that the Home Ownership / Home Improvement Seminars program be organized as soon as possible. There is great resident interest in developing this program as soon as possible. The fact that a model program from the Edgemont neighborhood exists should greatly expedite the process of organizing this program.

Action Steps:

  1. Make the Home Improvement / Home Ownership Seminar program an agenda item at a monthly EPDC meeting. Gain feedback from EPDC members on what the goal of the Seminar should be, when and where it should be held, who should be invited, and how the organization will evaluate the Seminar to improve future efforts. Form a sub-committee of residents who are interested in organizing the event.
  2. Organize volunteers (UIUC students and local residents) to interview residents on their knowledge and skills in home maintenance and repair topics. Question residents about their interest in learning more about home improvement and home ownership.
  3. Determine the best location, date and time to hold the event. A Saturday from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. in the spring or summer months may be most accommodating.
  4. Contact housing professionals such as local developers, banks, municipal agencies (Police and Fire Depts.), mortgage companies, insurance firms, home improvement centers, Cooperative Extension, and other home repair experts such as plumbers, carpenters, roofers and electricians on their willingness to participate as exhibitors and/or presenters. Get a commitment from them to attend the event, make a short presentation, provide handouts, and be available to answer questions.
  5. Ask local housing assistance and advocacy groups to co-sponsor the event, e.g. Citizens for the Future (CFF), McCormack Baron & Associates, Regional Housing and Community Development Alliance, Neighborhood Based Family Housing Program, and Lessie Bates Davis.
  6. Advertise the event by using television, radio, cable, community newspapers, and church bulletins to notify people city-wide about the event.
  7. Flyer the neighborhood two weeks before the event to remind the neighborhood that the seminar is right around the corner. Inform residents that child care and transportation to and from the event can be provided. If these are needed services, arrange a time for pick-up and place reminder calls two days before the event. Ask residents to bring at least one other person with them, someone who is not in their household.
  8. Secure needed equipment and services: tables, chairs, podium, PA system, camcorder, food, vehicle for residents who need transportation and child care activities.
  9. Organize cable coverage for municipal broadcast.
  10. Produce printed materials on the housing initiatives in Emerson Park, the opportunities for housing assistance through EPDC and Lessie Bates Davis, and information about local improvement and ownership assistance programs. Ask housing professionals who will be participating in the event to bring printed materials for at least 100 residents.
  11. Hold the event.
  12. Ask participants, speakers and exhibitors to evaluate the event on the following criteria:
  13. Begin planning for the second Home Ownership / Home Improvement Seminar by using all the feedback from the event and ask attendees if they are interested in planning for the second Seminar.

Participating Organizations


The total cost for a one-day seminar is approximately $500, and is detailed in the budget. Professional presenters, exhibitors and local sponsors will ideally donate small funds and materials for the Seminar.

The $900 cost represents advertising, handouts, food, and rental of a PA system.

Possible Funding Sources


1. HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has assembled a buyer’s kit that may be a useful reference in planning the Home Ownership / Home Improvement Seminar.

2. Housing Counseling Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 10423
McLean, VA 22102-8423

This service provides information on current HUD funded counseling programs.

3. NeighborhWorks Network Campaign for Home Ownership 2002

The NeighborWorks Network maintains a detailed web site on homeownership training and an extensive list of supplemental resources

B. Demolition Program

The emigration of residents and businesses from East St. Louis has led to widespread housing abandonment. Private landowners, renters, and public agencies have left housing to sit abandoned, deteriorating as time goes by and creating hazards to health and safety throughout the city. Demolition of these abandoned and completely dilapidated structures has long been seen as a major threat to positive growth in East St. Louis. Demolition of these structures is difficult due to limited funding and enforcement staff, absentee landowners, and landowners who do not have the means to demolish their deteriorated structures.

A recent land use survey conducted by the University of Illinois in October 1997, found 51 vacant structures that should be inspected for demolition. Another survey completed by the EPDC found 78 such structures. Structures are determined to be in need of demolition if they appear completely unsound and if rehabilitation of the structures is not cost efficient. The first step in improving housing in Emerson Park is the demolition of these deteriorated structures and the clearing of lots. The Demolition Program documents the dangers to health and safety, involves the adjacent land owners, and pressures local and county government and private landowners to demolish these neighborhood threats.

With an annual demolition budget of $2 million, the City of East St. Louis can provide 133 demolitions at approximately $7000 each. This cost estimate is inclusive of potentially necessary environmental assessments and remediation, as in the case of asbestos. Divided by fifteen neighborhoods within the city, this provides enough money for the demolition of 22 homes in Emerson Park. EPDC could petition the city for an additional 8 demolitions per year due to the proposed light rail and housing developments, bringing the total to 30 per year. Thirty of the 78 structures identified by EPDC are being demolished as part of the Parsons Place development.

It is recommended that county-held buildings (26% in Emerson Park) be referred to the city for demolition first, as the city has control over these properties and can demolish them without a court order. Under Illinois State Law, the county is required to take over as trustee of abandoned properties. The city pays holding costs to the county and the city has the authority to determine what to do with the properties. If St. Clair County is the "holder in trust" of the title for a property with a derelict structure, the city can seek the county’s approval to demolish.

Privately held structures with absentee landowners or properties held by people unable to afford demolition, present a serious problem in Emerson Park. Many of the dilapidated structures fall into this category. To rid the neighborhood of privately held derelict buildings, it is suggested that the neighborhood association work with Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance and the Neighborhood Law Office to obtain court orders to force owners to demolish or seal dangerous building. For owners of dilapidated structures who truly cannot afford to demolish or seal their properties, it is recommended that funds from the city’s demolition program be used.

Implementation Timeline: Year 1 - 2

The demolition program can begin in Year 1 as soon as staff time can be dedicated to this activity. It is anticipated that the program will take several weeks of personnel attention and then once per month administrative tasks. Residents will be involved in both identification of properties and in pressuring local and county government to take action. Ongoing maintenance of cleared lots must also be planned and assessed regularly. It is not enough to take down the structure, the lots must also be maintained. The program will continue until all deteriorated structures are demolished and no longer decrease the quality of life in Emerson Park.

Action Steps:

  1. Combine EPDC’s report of properties to demolish with the University’s land use survey. Create a map of these structures. EPDC has photos of most of these properties and the University of Illinois has ownership information on file from 1996. The County Assessor’s Office has current ownership information. Map 4.2 shows unoccupied structures that should be inspected for demolition according to the 1998 University of Illinois survey. The Appendix contains tables showing the single-family homes that are recommended for demolition, all other structures that should be inspected for demolition, and the results of the survey conducted by the EPDC in September of 1998.
  2. Develop criteria for prioritizing units to be demolished. Buildings chosen for demolition are those which are not structurally sound, that are on blocks that are more than 50% occupied; adjacent to/within 300 yards of public facilities/social services; vital to land assembly for new developments (Metrolink, housing); within 300 yards of one or more currently occupied homes; or on a corner or a highly visible lot.
  3. Develop a schedule of demolition activities to be submitted to the City of East St. Louis and St. Clair County.
  4. Assemble one to two adjacent homeowners for every property that is on the demolition list. These homeowners are best equipped to pressure the City and the County to demolish immediate threats to their health and safety. Historically, pressure from adjacent owners has been more effective than general neighborhood lobbying.
  5. Organize a meeting with the City of East St. Louis and St. Clair County. At this meeting, present the prioritized list of structures for demolition, their photos (EPDC has a complete book of photos), a demolition schedule, and letters from all adjacent homeowners and other interested parties. Seek a commitment to demolish.
  6. Meet with city and county agencies regarding progress on the demolition. As the structures are demolished, remove them from the map, recognize the efforts of adjacent property owners when the structure is demolished, and move on to the next scheduled demolition.
  7. Set up a system of lot maintenance with the City or County that did the demolition. Work with these partners to develop a regular schedule of lot maintenance until the lot is used for a different use.
  8. Look to replicate the program in other neighborhoods.
  9. Evaluate the program on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations


Implementation of this program will take a considerable amount of EPDC staff time and on-going resident participation. Legal assistance is provided for free to neighborhood organizations by Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance and the Neighborhood Law Office. It is anticipated that supplies for maintaining records of activity, mailings and publicity will cost about $250 per year. The estimated total cost to the city and county for demolishing 50 vacant and completely dilapidated structures is $350,000 or $7,000 per structure over 2 years. Much of this cost should come from demolition fees paid by private landowners. The costs represented in the budget do not include staff/overhead costs of EPDC nor the demolishing agency. They also do not include the lot maintenance costs. The maintenance of the cleared lots could be incorporated into the Jobs Through Lot Clean Up Program (see Section III:B).

Possible Funding Sources:

Map 4.2: Demolition Program

C. Low Cost Home Improvements

Emerson Park contains 80 occupied structures in need of immediate rehabilitation and hundreds more that would benefit from home improvements. The majority of these structures are single-family homes. Time and time again residents of Emerson Park expressed a desire to fix up their homes. When surveyed in 1998, 83% of residents report that they would like to make improvements to their homes. Many of these homeownser, however, do not have the financial means or physical strengths to do this work themselves. The Emerson Park Development Corporation has assisted in the rehabbing of fourteen single family homes in the neighborhood. There is strong neighborhood support for expanding the rehab program and allowing more residents to participate.

Residents currently receive rehab grants for $15,000 - $25,000. They are not required to put any personal funds towards the rehabilitation work, although many do. There is some concern that because residents do not contribute any portion of their own income, that they are less likely to maintain the improvements in the long term. EPDC may consider devising an equity building plan that requires residents to set aside $25 per month into an interest building home warranty program. This scheme would not only commit a portion of the resident’s income towards the home improvement but would also serve as an interest bearing savings account and as a protection against housing deterioration. Residents have also voiced some concern over having the rehabbed homes be scattered equitably throughout the neighborhood rather than clusted in the residential core. This program proposes a way to reach a broader range of residents for home improvements annually and make the improvements more sustainable.

Implementation Timeline: Year 2

This program is an expansion of the existing home rehab program. The expansion involves minor changes to the way the program is organized and the amount of rehab funds that are available. Staff time on this program should not increase significantly after some initial research on funding opportunities. This program will continue indefinitely.

Action Steps:

  1. Verify the list of all properties that exhibit rehabilitation potential. Map 4.3 shows these properties and the Appendix contains a full listing of potentially rehabbed properties.
  2. Expand the pool of home improvement funds by researching additional funding sources. Home improvement grants currently come from the Community Development Block Grant office. Contact Del Tegmeier of Magna Bank regarding how the Energy Home Repair Fund operated in the Winstanley Neighborhood and if it is available to Emerson Park residents. Approach Rep. Wyvetter Younge to contact the State Treasurer regarding Direct Deposit Program’s current status and request expansion of this program into Emerson Park.
  3. Set aside a monthly EPDC meeting to discuss the policy guidelines regarding the operation of the program. Are they OK the way they are? Is one group of people or one area of the neighborhood receiving more rehab funding? Is there a way to require resident’s to pay into the improvements without worsening their financial situation?
  4. Historically, selection has been based on the following criteria:


    Identify additional criteria. Take this meeting time to divide the neighborhood into concentric "rehab" rings. This program anticipates that at least 5 to 6 homes in a zone can be rehabbed each year. Re-write grant application if the residents make changes to the current system.

  5. Secure funding for home improvement rehab grants and determine the number of grants that will be available.
  6. Spread the word about available home improvement grants by flyering the neighborhood, putting signs in local public places, calling homeowners in the designated zone, and discussing the program at monthly EPDC meetings. Provide all grant guidelines to interested residents and distribute applications.
  7. Determine eligibility of applicants, select 5 or 6 depending on level of funding secured and begin rehabilitation.
  8. Encourage residents who apply but who are not eligible for EPDC’s program, to pursue one of the many other home improvement programs such as HUD’s Section 1 Property Improvement Loan Insurance and the Section 203(k) program. Link the resident with these alternative program and agree to work through the process with them.
  9. If additional funds are available in a given year that surpasses demand for grants in that zone, continue on to provide grants in the next zone.
  10. Evaluate Low Cost Home Improvement Program on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations:

Map 4.3: Low Cost Home Improvement Program


EPDC should not have to allocate over $300 of their own budget for this program per year to advertise the program and organize public meetings. This, however, does not include the personnel costs involved in maintaining the Low Cost Home Improvement Program. Grants range in amount from $15,000 to $25,000 and 5 to 6 are planned each year. Rehab cost will average $120,000 per year.

Possible Funding Sources:

D. Abandoned Housing

Programs B and C have addressed structures that should be demolished or are owner occupied and in need of rehabilitation. There is a third sector of single family homes that are UNOCOPPIED and in need of REHABILITATION. There are 32 structure that fall into this category (Map 4.4). They are listed in the Appendix with their location, owner, and building material. In Emerson Park, acquiring a deteriorated home has cost approximately $1,500 while acquiring a vacant home in fair condition has cost approximately $5,500.

The rehab potential of these homes provides a unique opportunity for Emerson Park to revitalize its unique vernacular style of "shot-gun" style homes and traditional working class bungalows. Rehab of these singles family homes also opens new homeownership opportunities for a range of income levels.

Implementation Timeline: Year 3 - 4

The Abandoned Housing program involves a large amount of EPDC staff time, technical assistance from the University of Illinois, contractual labor, and volunteer labor. It is recommended that this program begin in year three or four after the expanded Home Improvement grant program is underway. A Spring semester Architecture design studio from the University of Illinois should be reserved for providing technical assistance to the program.

Action Steps

  1. Confirm the list of vacant, single-family homes in need of rehabilitation (see Appendix). Check their current owners at the County Assessor’s office. Pursue owners of homes to inform them that either a.) EPDC is interested in purchasing the property, 2.) There is rehab money and assistance available for the property in effort to return them to the local housing stock, or 3.) EPDC is filing a court order for them (private owners) to maintain their property or sell it.
  2. Prioritize the vacant structures based on their potential for rehab, their proximity to other occupied structures, their location, and their estimated cost of rehabilitation. Schedule their rehabilitation for 10 to 15 homes per year.
  3. Secure the 2001-2002 HOME application to obtain rehab funds. Investigate other possible funding sources for the rehabilitation of vacant houses in poor conditon.
  4. Recruit Spring Architecture class to inspect the prioritized homes, produce rehab plans for each home that fit HUD’s Housing Quality Standards, and devise "scope of services"—work, materials, and cost—for each selected home.
  5. Advertise city-wide the opportunity for a rehabilitated affordable house.
  6. Accept applications for assisted home-ownership, screen applicants and make selections.
  7. Select 10-15 homes which fit HUD and EPDC guidelines to be rehabbed during the first year of the program.
  8. Advertise for a project architect to produce final drawings and provide construction management services for the bid document. Select architect.
  9. Advertise for general contractors to perform the rehabilitation. Select contractors following the city’s minority hiring guidelines.
  10. Recruit general volunteer labor from Universities in the Missouri – Illinois area and from local churches.
  11. Organize volunteer arrangements: dates, accommodations, duties, relationship with professional contractors, and insurance.
  12. Monitor construction progress.
  13. New residents move in.
  14. Evaluate the first year of the program based on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations:


Costs for the Rehabilitate Abandoned Housing program depend on the costs of rehabilitating 10 to 15 homes per year. Recent rehabs of vacant structures have averaged $35,000 each. Acquisition costs range from $1,500 to $5,500 depending on the condition of the home. The budget assumes rehab and acquisition cost of an estimated $40,000 per year for 32 structures spread out over three years. Additional costs include advertising/publicity costs, flyers, and food for volunteers. There are no staff/overhead costs included in the budget.

Possible Funding Sources

Map 4.4 Abandoned Housing Rehab Program

E. Market Emerson Park

The City of East St. Louis has experienced a great deal of negative publicity in the past two decades. Newspapers, books, and media reports have depicted the city as an oppressive place to live and as a place that people LEAVE, not move into. East St. Louis infrastructure, municipal services, housing stock, employment, education, and safety have been depicted horribly throughout the world. In Savage Inequalities, author Jonathan Kozel sites a reference made by a teacher at the University of Southern Illinois who called East St. Louis, " a repository for a nonwhite population that is now regarded as expendable. References such as this one continue to populate local and national publications and spread the sentiment shared by so many that East St. Louis is not a good place to call home.

Times are changing in East St. Louis and it is imperative that the City counter negative reports with the facts about all the good things happening in the City. An aggressive marketing campaign undertaken in partnership with the City of East St. Louis, EPDC, new housing developers, and Bi-State Development Agency could dispel some of the myths about living in Emerson Park and advertise the new developments. Advertisements could be placed in all St. Louis and Metro-East publications. Banks could distribute brochures showing the mortgage arrangements of first-time homebuyers and the options for homeownership in the City. Within the next couple of years, Emerson Park will witness the extension of the Metro Link, 250 units of new multi-family housing, an estimated 100 single family homes and new commercial activities. An aggressive marketing campaign is needed to improve the neighborhood’s image, encourage new residents, and stabilize the neighborhood through a growing and diverse population.

Implementation Timeline: Year 2 - 3

A great deal of short-term staff time must be dedicated to organizing a "marketing team" comprised of developers, municipal officials, and residents. Once this group is organized and advertising materials are produced, staff time will be minimized. The Marketing Emerson Park program should be started early in Year 2 to encourage immediate new move-ins.

Action Steps:

  1. Call a meeting of the City Manager, local development partners, Bi-State, the EPDC board, local residents and the East St. Louis Action Research Project to discuss marketing the neighborhood and forming a "marketing team".
  2. At the meeting develop a comprehensive list of all the reasons to "Move to Emerson Park". This list should include the positive things the city has to offer in each of the following categories:
  3. Also at the meeting, develop a list of the "Top 10" reasons to move to Emerson Park.

  4. Recruit a duo of University of Illinois students from the Advertising or Commerce Department to spend one semester developing marketing tools for Emerson Park. The marketing tools should include newspaper and magazine ads, brochures showing what the neighborhood has to offer and compelling radio announcements. A video for broadcast on public television in the surrounding communities may also be a good marketing tool. The student’s work should be reviewed by the "marketing team" at monthly meetings. A great deal of interaction between the students and the East St. Louis organizations is necessary because the student will have little knowledge of the City.
  5. Meet with regional newspaper and television boards to encourage them to report on the good things happening in the City.
  6. Make final changes to all marketing tools and use the members of the marketing team to distribute these materials. Each organization should take responsibility for using one of the marketing tools. Costs of distributing materials should be divided among the organizations.
  7. Continue the marketing effort for two to five years. Make changes to marketing tools as the neighborhood develops.
  8. Evaluate the program based on the following criteria:

Participating Organizations:


Placing advertisements in newspapers, magazines, on the radio and on television is typically a costly activity. Much of the cost may be waived if the East St. Louis municipal government is the client. The following budget assumes that costs are high and that the program lasts for four years. Total costs should be divided between members of the marketing team. The cost associated with the student-advertising team will be a function of the East St. Louis Action Research Project.

Possible Funding Sources

F. In-Fill New Single Family Housing

Between 1980 and 1990, the number of residential dwelling units in Emerson Park dropped from 1,246 to 657, and the current occupancy rate for single-family homes is 73%. Also, vacant parcels account for 58% or 958 of all parcels in Emerson Park. This has caused a hesitancy to invest in the neighborhood. However, the Metro Link extension by the Bi-State Development Agency has generated renewed interest in Emerson Park’s housing sector. There is also considerable investment that the East St. Louis Housing Authority is making in the neighborhood at 9th, 13th and 14th Streets on Natalie and Gross. The amount of vacant land which is under public control will greatly accelerate the process of building new affordable housing within the area.

The previous strategies address ways of revitalizing existing housing. The In-Fill New program creates brand new housing in the neighborhood through partnerships created with the Neighborhood Based Family Housing Program and a local developer, Community Development Consultants. Both of these partners develop affordable single family homes in East St. Louis for lower income families. The Neighborhood Based Family Housing Program is a coalition of several local church-based and neighborhood-based organizations who joined together in an effort to build twenty-five (25) new homes which will be located in Emerson Park and Olivette Park over the next five years. Four of these homes have been built in Emerson Park. The NBFHP utilizes skilled labor, hundreds of volunteers, sweat equity, affordability gap financing, and low interest conventional mortgages to secure new single family homes in the neighborhood. Community Development Consultants, led by Mr. Don Johnson, has been creating over 50 affordable and attractive homes throughout the East St. Louis metropolitan area. The Emerson Park Development Corporation in partnership with NBFHP and CDC have all the tools necessary for developing new housing on currently vacant lots.

Residents of Emerson Park consistently site the new homes as an inspiration to maintain their own home and more importantly to stay in the neighborhood and encourage others to move in. New, beautiful homes are the most visible improvement in the neighborhood. The homes increase neighborhood pride, spur development interest, and provide strong signs of a positive future. In the words of one resident, "Keep building them and people will come!" To continue this movement, the neighborhood has plans for 100 new single family homes over the next five years, 20 to 25 by the Neighborhood Based Family Housing Program and 70 to 75 by Community Development Consultants and other private developers. The majority of these units will be built as "in-fill" homes within the neighborhood’s existing nine block residential core from Exchange to Lake from 11th to 17th Streets. Efforts should be made to develop these units at a scale and in a style that is compatible with the existing "shotgun" and "craftsmen" bungalow homes that now dominate this area. The homes typically sell for between $55,000 and $75,000. The mortgages are conventional thirty year mortgages with low interest rates, and subsidized down payments to help fill the affordability gap.

One of the goals of Emerson Park is to become a mixed-income community where some houses are suited for people making above the median income of $40,000 per year in the Metropolitan St. Louis region. These homes would be developed at a larger scale than the lower income homes and provide increased amenities. The neighborhood is confident that the new affordable housing being developed in the neighborhood and the market rate rental units by McCormack Baron will encourage investment by homeowners at a higher income level. The appropriate mix of market rate, subsidized mortgage, and rental assistance housing units must be maintained to insure that residents who want to remain in the neighborhood are not squeezed out by rising land values.

Implementation Timeline:

The one-hundred new single-family infill houses will be built over the next five to ten years as interest in Emerson Park grows.

The following is a description of the first phase of in-fill development – "Block 417 Restoration"

F(a). Block 419 Restoration – Phase I of In-Fill New Program

A proposal by EPDC, CDBG and the Sustainable Neighborhood Initiatives.

The Emerson Park Development Corporation proposes the redevelopment of Block 419 in the Emerson Park Neighborhood of East St. Louis. The proposed development will enhance the positive work already underway in this block. EPDC is currently partnering in the Neighborhood Faith Based Housing Program to create a solid core of single family development.

The target area for the development is one complete block bound by 13th Street, 14th Street, Exchange Avenue and Winstanley Avenue. Exchange Avenue will serve as the main thoroughfare for Madison County residents to reach the MetroLink Station to be opened at 15th Street and Baugh Avenue. The Winstanley Avenue face of the block will continue in completing the residential development that has been reinvented on Winstanley Avenue with infill housing.

Current conditions along the North side of Winstanley Avenue find the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House and two single family homes built by the Neighborhood Faith-Based Housing Program. On the South side of Winstanley Avenue are two single family homes built by the Neighborhood Faith-Based Housing Program, an older rehabbed home, and an abandoned, derelict single family structure. On the East side of North 14th Street are the backyards of two homes, one fronting Winstanley Avenue and one fronting Exchange Avenue. On the West side of North 14th Street are vacant lots. On the South side of Exchange Avenue is one derelict structure and a package liquor store. On the North side of Exchange Avenue is one occupied single family structure. On the West side North 13th Street is a East St. Louis Housing Authority Property. On the East side of North 13th Street is a derelict single family home, a four family flat and an occupied single family home. Cottage Lane cuts in the center of the North side of Exchange Avenue and extends to the center of the block approximately 200’ north of Exchange Avenue. On the West side of Cottage Lane are two vacant derelict structures. On the East side of Cottage Lane are vacant lots.

As with the Parsons Place Development, EPDC will request assistance from South Western Illinois Development Authority (SWIDA) to assist in property acquisition of vacant lots and vacant derelict structures. All property owners will initially be approached by EPDC to negotiate a fair price for the purchase of their property. Similarly to the Parsons Place Development no occupied structures will be acquired through the use of Quick-Take. All landowners will be approached to negotiate a fair price for their land but no owner of an owner occupied structure will be required to sell their home. As depicted in the development map, the home-owner occupied structures will be incorporated into the development plan and the developers will assist any home owner occupying a structure in the target area to acquire rehab funds.

Currently, EPDC and the City of East St. Louis own approximately 30% of the parcels in the target area. All other parcels are currently held by private owners. EPDC will use the City Standard of offering $20/front foot of land held by an individual property owner. EPDC will also have all of the parcels appraised by an MAI Appraiser and will comply with the rules of Quick-Take to make this new development occur.

EPDC will ask the East St. Louis Planning Commission to assist and approve in the proper zoning of the development and with the proper vacation and designation of alleys and right of ways. It is proposed that EPDC will add a cul-de-sac to the North end of Cottage Lane and ask for the vacation of the existing alleyways from 13th Street to 14th Street and the alleys that run from Exchange Avenue to the existing alley mentioned previously.

The development proposes the demolition of three vacant and derelict structures, the rehabilitation of two single family homes and one four family flat, new construction of seven new single family homes, new construction of eight duplex structures.

The focal point of the development will be the creation of a cul-de-sac on what is now Cottage Lane. The added benefit to the cul-de-sac is that in cutting into the block allows for more defensible space in keeping with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles as utilized in HUD’s "New Urbanism". The cul-de-sac will be surrounded by five new duplex structures. Five single family homes and one duplex structure will front 14th Street. An existing single-family home will be rehabbed and continue to front Exchange Avenue. An existing single-family home will be rehabbed and continue to front 13th Street, as will the four family flat. Two single family structures will be placed on the south side of the four family flat and one single family home will be placed to the north of the four family flat. Four new single family homes will be constructed to front Winstanley Avenue. Exchange Avenue will be one of the busiest streets on the neighborhood once the MetroLink Station opens at 15th and Baugh Avenue. It will be the access route for Madison County Commuters coming off of I-55/70.

Infrastructure improvements will be an essential part of this project. It is recommended that both 13th Street and 14th Street, which are in dire need of repair be newly paved and new curbs, sidewalks and gutters be put in. The alley that runs East to West through the block will need to be vacated, as will the paper alleys running North and South from Exchange Avenue to the middle of the block. Exchange Avenue is being redone by the MetroLink expansion. Winstanley Avenue is the strongest residential street in the neighborhood as far as housing structures go, but the street is in bad need of repair from 9th Street all the way to 19th Street.

This project will continue to strengthen the core of the residential development in the neighborhood while developing an example to be utilized for transitioning from multi-family and neighborhood commercial to single family dwellings. It will also aid in changing the perception of the Emerson Park Neighborhood of East St. Louis. The existing residents of the neighborhood are the big winners of this type of development due to the fact that two families will have their homes brought up to meet Housing Quality Standards through the renovation and by decreasing the number of vacant and derelict structures in the area the crime rate will continue to decrease as well.


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Surveys, Tests, Permits and Fees



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Multi-Family/Duplex Construction



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Acq, Demo, Remediation, Site Prep & Public Imp’s



Marketing & Advertising



Rehabilitation of 3 Structures:

2 Owner Occupied Single Family Homes

4 Family Flat






Taxes, Title Work (recording & disbursing)



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Participating Organizations:

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Summary: Housing for Everyone

The Emerson Park Housing Strategy seeks to provide quality housing to a wide range of income levels by:

The goal of the housing strategy is to expand opportunities for all current and future residents. The following list summarizes how these objectives are to be met.

  1. Very Low Income Residents and Families (<50% of the median metro area income)

Individuals and Families with incomes less than 50% of the Metro area median income, or less than $18,000, will have the opportunity to move into newly-constructed townhouses within the neighborhood owned and operated by the East St. Louis Housing Authority. This income group is also eligible for home improvement grants and home ownership counseling.

2. Low Income Familes (50% to 69% of the median metro area income)

Families whose incomes are between 50% and 69% of the Regional household income at $20 to $27,000, will have the chance to move into new multi-family housing units adjacent to the Metro Link Station, Parsons Place.

3. Moderate Income Families (70% to 100% of the median metro area income)

Residents with incomes approaching the region’s median will have the opportunity to secure conventional mortgage and purchase single-family homes with the help of a variety of "in place" housing subsidies provided by the East St. Louis Community Development Block Grant Office, the East St. Louis Tax Increment Financing Program, and local banks. Also, these individuals and households have the opportunity to move into the new-mixed income housing development adjacent to the Metro Link.

4. Medium to Upper Income Residents (>100% of the median metro area income)

A portion of the one hundred new single family homes will be developed on larger lots with more amenities and available to households earning above the median income. The 201-unit mixed income housing development adjacent to the Metro Link has forty percent of its units planned as market rate.

Document author(s) : Cathy Klump
Last modified: 27 September 1999, Deanna Koenigs