Sometime early next year the bulldozers will start arriving in Riverside Lawn to demolish about 20 homes that have been sold or are slated for sale to the Cook County Land Bank.

Through the first half of December, the Cook County Land Bank had conducted 16 real estate transactions, buying 15 homes in Riverside Lawn, the flood-prone unincorporated area of Riverside Township.

Rob Rose, the executive director of the land bank, told the Landmark on Dec. 21 that there were four more transactions remaining in the pipeline. When those are completed, the land bank will have purchased roughly half the homes in Riverside Lawn.

After the final four property transactions close, said Rose, there will be 22 homes left in Riverside Lawn. Most of those are on the south end of the neighborhood, closer to 39th Street.

And once the demolitions begin, Rose said he expected more homeowners to follow suit and sell their properties to the county, which instituted the buyout to move people out of the flood plain.

When the demolitions are complete next spring, almost all of the homes closest to the Des Plaines River will be gone and any that remain in the northern section of Riverside Lawn will be isolated. 

The land bank plans to transfer ownership of the properties to the Cook County Forest Preserve District and prohibit the land from being sold and developed for residential or commercial uses in the future.

“Once demolition crews come in I expect an echo response [from remaining homeowners],” said Rose, who added he’s in the process of getting demolition bids.

The demolitions will not happen sporadically, Rose said.

“We’re going to move in pretty heavy and do it all at once or in groups at a time,” Rose said. “There will be a lot of activity all at once. I think that will motivate some who are on the fence.”

Rose said the buyout has progressed pretty much as prior surveys of residents had suggested. The owners of houses most affected by flooding have agreed to sell or have sold their properties. 

“They were the first responders,” Rose said.

In addition, the land bank is working on acquiring a couple of properties at the north end of Riverside Lawn that are not under contract, including a couple of abandoned properties, one of which is in probate.  

Rose said that while some of the people reluctant to sell weren’t so severely affected by flooding in the past, he wasn’t sure how the removal of properties to the north might affect flood patterns in the future.

“There will be no other structures to stop water from getting to them,” Rose said. “It’s something else to consider.” 

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