Preckwinkle names leaders for Cook County land bank – including CCH’s Julie Dworkin

By David Lee Matthews

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday named a cross-section of public officials, real estate professionals and housing advocates to lead a new land bank as it prepares to submit a $20 million grant proposal to rev up redevelopment throughout the county.

The Cook County Land Bank’s directors include county Commissioner Bridget Gainer, who co-sponsored the land bank ordinance approved last month; Northlake Mayor and former real estate lawyer Jeffrey Sherwin; Carl Jenkins, vice president and director of community investments at BMO Harris Bank N.A.; and Emy Brawley, director of land preservation at Chicago-based conservation organization Openlands. The 10-member board will elect a chairman soon, according to a spokeswoman for Ms. Gainer.

The board will lead the Cook County Land Bank Authority, which was established by the county board to acquire distressed properties across city borders and return them to productive use.

“The land bank will be an important planning tool in the economic revitalization of the county’s most blighted neighborhoods,” Ms. Preckwinkle said in a statement. “We have identified a diverse and dedicated group who will work to redevelop vacant and abandoned properties to put them back on the tax rolls.”

The bank, which would use its statutory powers to clear taxes and other liens to expedite such acquisitions, will not draw from county funds.

Instead, its board will use donations and grants. The Chicago Community Trust, a local foundation, already approved a $149,000 grant to underwrite startup activities, according to a press release. Meanwhile, the land bank, the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development and a smaller south suburban land bank aim to submit a $20 million grant proposal to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is distributing $70 million for local relief efforts from last year’s settlement between government officials and the nation’s five largest loan servicers over alleged foreclosure abuses.

A spokeswoman for Ms. Madigan declined to comment on the grant proposal, and a spokesman for Ms. Preckwinkle did not immediately return a message.

Other land bank board members include Lawrence Grisham of the city Department of Housing and Economic Development; Herman Brewer, bureau chief for the Cook County Bureau of Economic Development; Calvin Holmes, president of the Chicago Community Loan Fund; Sarah Ware, principal and managing broker at real estate firm Carter Ware Group Inc.; Stephen Porras, founder of Axia Development Inc.; and Julie Dworkin, director of policy at the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for Ms. Madigan said, “We are continuing to accept proposals up until the Feb. 15 deadline for submission, at which point we will commence with a thorough review process to determine the appropriate next steps.”