Through the REALTOR® Party’s new Transforming Neighborhoods Program, the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® welcomed a team of experts from the Counselors of Real Estate® Consulting Corps to study the potential of two severely dilapidated neighborhoods, with an eye toward housing and economic development. The team’s in-depth report will provide a road map for bringing these neighborhoods back to life.
Shortly after meeting with the newly elected mayor of Peoria, Illinois, the local REALTORS® pitched her a proposal: to collaborate with the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS (PAAR) in applying to NAR’s Transforming Neighborhoods Program. Securing one of the coveted spots would mean receiving an in-depth study of the best use of land left after the demolition of two dilapidated schools – complete with actionable recommendations – by NAR commercial affiliate The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE). With the mayor’s enthusiastic agreement and strong support from Illinois REALTORS®, PAAR submitted one of the program’s three successful applications of 2022.
The school sites are within a southside Peoria zip code that has been identified as one of the most distressed in the nation, and the City of Peoria has plans to demolish both. Spearheading the CRE project, PAAR CEO Jennifer Hamm and Kristie Engerman, Illinois REALTORS®’ Local Governmental Affairs Director, recognized that the successful development of the two sites would benefit the entire zip code and the community beyond.
“To make the most of the opportunity, we laid a lot of groundwork in advance of the consulting team’s week-long visit,” says Hamm. “Over the years, we had cultivated relationships with elected officials and community partners in a number of fields, and this is where it really paid off: we invited their participation, which involved extensive ‘Pre-CRE’ meetings to make sure the project got off on the right foot and that we didn’t waste a single minute that the CRE team was with us. No one declined: we had sixty stakeholder participants, including city officials and staff, representatives from the housing authority, the school district, the police department, clergy, social service organizations, REALTOR® members, and more, all fully engaged in the process.”
The CRE Consulting Corps is a consortium of highly credentialed real estate problem solvers. Following months of preparation of their own, the five-member team assigned to the Peoria project arrived and hit the ground running. They toured the sites and met with the stakeholders in small specialty groups. They asked questions and listened hard. Their preliminary plan advised four basic steps: demolishing the dilapidated school buildings; capturing local pride to create a new brand identity for each site; leveraging the city’s new homeownership program to spur investment and get lenders to the table; and developing rental housing, including affordable senior housing, with integrated neighborhood services. Hamm and Engerman are now digesting the 90-page final report, and plan to hold a press conference with the mayor and IL REALTORS® to present it to Peoria’s public.
Hamm notes that the CRE study was the REALTORS®’ gift to the city. “We are aggressively moving it forward, but the next big steps are in the city’s hands. Mayor Rita Ali understands this, and it’s been a great way to engage in-depth with her and with so many of PAAR’s community partners, and show them ‘That’s Who We R’.” Engerman concurs, adding, “These grants help position the REALTORS® as an important resource in the community. Working with The Counselors of Real Estate has been a phenomenal opportunity for us and for the community. It serves as an example of how to leverage a REALTOR Party grant to build and enhance an area. We are hopeful that there might be additional REALTOR® Party grants down the road to help the city to realize the plans for the long term…”
Engerman encourages GADs and local associations to apply for REALTOR® Party resources. “The staff is there to help you, and to be a sounding board every step of the way. There are different ways to build bridges and relationships. Do what works for you, but it’s never too early to start and REALTOR Party grants are an important vehicle to enhance those relationships…”
To learn more about how the Peoria Association of REALTORS® is working to revitalize neglected pockets of the city, contact CEO Jennifer Hamm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 309.688.8591; or Illinois REALTORS® Local Governmental Affairs Director Kristie Engerman at email@example.com.