A pair of charismatic house-rehabbing twins who have a television show in the works at HGTV are teaming up with the Cook County Land Bank to makeover a house in the city and give it away.
Anton and Anthony Downing, who grew up in the West Chesterfield neighborhood and have been rehabbing homes for a decade, this spring signed a contract to create an HGTV show called “Double Down.” Production hasn’t yet begun, Anthony Downing said. They specialize in instilling stylish new looks into worn-out properties, such as this 1950s home in Pill Hill.
“The land bank has a very similar mission to us,” Anthony Downing said. “We want to see the neighborhoods improved through renovation and get people access to owning property so they can build that generational wealth.”
Bridget Gainer, the Cook County Commissioner who chairs the land bank authority, said having the Downings involved will help “get our message out to the people we want to reach,” that is, those who could take on a cosmetic rehab of a budget-priced home in their neighborhood. The Downings, she said, “started out doing it house to house, and they’ve grown into a sophisticated organization.”
While the Downings have handled their own purchases of foreclosures and legal issues, Gainer said they’ll be role models of sorts for the express lane that the land bank provides: it offers properties it has acquired and cleaned of any legal, financial and zoning red tape.
The Downings and land bank officials won’t disclose the exact location of the house until the Hilton event, but they told Crain’s it’s on the Southwest Side and only needs cosmetic work like a rehabbed kitchen and baths, no structural or roofing work. While the Land Bank often trades in properties that need structural and other significant work, those typically go to developers with expertise in such work. There’s also an effort called Homebuyers Direct, whose mission is to get individuals and households to revamp homes in their neighborhoods, for their own use.
Gainer said the full cost of the Downing brothers’ project, which the land bank will pay for, has not yet been estimated. A cosmetic rehab typically runs up to about $50,000, she said. The Downings said they are not yet finished drawing up their plans.
Cook County officials launched the land bank in 2013 to help speed the process of returning casualties of the foreclosure crisis, vacant and derelict properties, to productive use and get them back on the property tax rolls. The Downings’ rehab business predates the land bank; after growing up watching their mother buy and run an investment property near their West Chesterfield home, the brothers started rehabbing properties in 2009, they said. They have recently expanded to new construction, building townhomes on property their mother owns in the Bahamas.
The Cook County Land Bank is selling the Washington Park National Bank Building in Woodlawn, 6300 S. Cottage Grove Ave., after conducting public listening meetings to see what the community wants from the space.
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