DANVILLE – A $300,000 grant through the Illinois Housing Development Authority will allow the Vermilion County Land Bank to demolish more abandoned buildings and rehabilitate homes.

Vermilion County Land Bank Executive Director Pat O’Shaughnessy said they haven’t found the right property to work on a rehab project yet.

O’Shaughnessy said they’re close to demolishing three houses in Hoopeston, hope also to do three in Georgetown and the land bank has acquired properties through the county trustee sale including the old city hall in Hoopeston. The Lorraine Theatre group will work to restore it as the old bank building also was restored.

“There’s enough blight that we want to clean up neighborhoods. We’re trying to get a little more aggressive in the acquisition of properties,” he said.

All some community neighborhoods need to be cleaned up are a few abandoned houses torn down, he said.

O’Shaughnessy said the land bank had applied for a $750,000 grant to be used over three years.

The largest grant IHDA awarded in the state was $300,000, he said.

The grant will assist with the revitalization of vacant, abandoned or foreclosed properties throughout the county, according to a press release from state Rep. Chad Hays’s office, R-Catlin.

Land banks are public or community-owned entities created to assist with community revitalization projects, and the grant, awarded through IHDA’s Land and Capacity Program and Technical Assistance Network, reimburses costs associated with improvement projects, according to the press release.

“The authority received a great number of applications, and I’m thrilled to know that $300,000 of the total $1.8 million in awards is coming right here to Vermilion County,” Hays said in the release. “Vermilion County Board Chairman Mike Marron and Vermilion County Land Bank Authority Chairman Patrick O’Shaughnessy are to be commended for their efforts in securing this large grant for the county’s revitalization efforts. Their joint leadership in seeking this money has led to 17 percent of the entire outlay of grants being awarded for our local use here in Vermilion County.”

Hays also thanked state Sen. Scott Bennett for his partnership in coordinating efforts with the IHDA to help secure the grant.

“After the activity is completed and the funds have been expended, expenses will be reported to IHDA and eligible expenses will be reimbursed,” Hays said.

According to IHDA, the grant can be used for ongoing acquisitions, demolition, redevelopment, and/or rehabilitation of acquired or donated parcels. The funds also may be used to fund enhanced/innovative land bank driven revitalization activities, and offset administrative expenses.

O’Shaughnessy said they also could look at hiring another field representative, to have one in the north and south parts of the county.

“We don’t know yet. We don’t know details yet,” he said about the grant and what exactly they will use it for.

He said the grant will help the land bank grow.

“It’s a wonderful start for us,” he said.

The land bank also has recently taken over about 175 lots from the City of Danville.

O’Shaughnessy said five to six lots are ready to be closed, and then marketing efforts will start in the spring.

The land bank also has applied for additional rounds of grant funding, including for abandoned properties.

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