The exodus from Riverside Lawn has begun, according to the top official at the Cook County Land Bank.
Rob Rose, executive director of the land bank, which proposed a buyout of the flood-prone unincorporated area of Riverside Township last year, said they have already closed on one home and have deals to buy 15 more properties.
“I suspect that once we get through this first wave, others who are on the fence will start to respond to us in terms of being able to move forward,” Rose said in a telephone interview on Aug. 8.
Rose said some of the 15 properties the county has contracted to buy will close within 30 days, though some of the owners have requested extensions because they are still looking for new homes.
Offers landed in the mailboxes of Riverside Lawn property owners in late June. While they were given 30 days to make a decision to accept the offers, many owners asked for another 30 days to think it over, Rose said.
According to Rose, there are 18 properties – both homes and vacant lots — whose owners have not yet committed to the buyout. But the land bank is willing to wait.
There are a dozen properties whose owners have never responded to the county in any fashion, said Rose. They haven’t returned phone calls, responded to letters or showed up to any of the community meetings held in the past year.
Rose said those dozen properties have been marked down as “no sale.”
Diane Gryglak, who has lived in a brick bungalow on Stanley Avenue in Riverside Lawn for three decades, confirmed her family will be leaving the neighborhood. They’re still looking for a new home, so there’s no closing date yet, but the stress of not knowing what the future held is at least over.
“The hardest part was that there was so much uncertainty for almost a year,” Gryglak said. “That period of time was pretty awful. Now that we know, we can make arrangements and look to move forward.”
It’s unclear exactly which property owners have deals with the county, but it appears that many of the longtime residents, including those who live in the oldest homes in the neighborhood, are going.
Gryglak said Riverside Lawn residents are getting ready to leave by hosting a neighborhood-wide garage sale on Saturday, Aug. 27. They’re also planning a neighborhood farewell party for a later date.
“There’ll be a lot of sadness for the neighborhood and about our homes,” Gryglak said.
The one home that the county has already purchased, according to Rose, is at 7900 39th St. That was one of the homes that did not require the second appraisal required by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which is partnering with the land bank on the buyout and secured $12 million in federal funds to purchase the properties.
There is no information on a sale price for that property, because the sale has yet to be recorded by the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.