Community, Community, Life and Living, Local, Park Forest

Latest SSTI Home Rehab Project Ready for Sale


Park Forest, IL—(ENEWSPF)—The Village of Park Forest hosted an open house on Tuesday, June 25, to showcase the latest home rehab and renovation project as part of the South Suburban Trades Initiative (SSTI).

SSTI Offers Students a Unique Training Opportunity

house with two-car attached garage and a dumpster next to the garage
After a yearlong rehabilitation effort, the house at 244 Gentry in Park Forest is ready for sale. (Photo John Hudzik)

The SSTI program utilizes South Suburban College (SSC) Building Construction and Industrial Technology Program students. Program Coordinator Eugene Damiani directs the renovation efforts. Four SSC students worked on the Gentry house over the past year. Students from the Prairie State HVAC training curriculum also participated in the renovations. They worked on the furnace, air conditioning, and associated ductwork.

The SSTI program previously relied on assistance from local trade union apprentice training programs. According to David Tracy, the Park Forest Project Manager, union participation has dropped off from previous projects. The plumbers’ union moved its training to an in-house facility, and other unions were unavailable for this house. The exception was the Chicago Roofers Joint Apprentice & Training Program Local 11, which completed the necessary roof repairs.

Workers from the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County (CEDA) completed the insulation work on the house.

Vacant for Over Ten Years

Located at 244 Gentry, the house had been vacant for over ten years and needed extensive rehabbing. As reported previously in eNews Park Forest, mold covered the wallboard, which had to be torn out. The garage roof was collapsing, the basement was flooding, and the stairs collapsed. There were signs of animal and rodent infestation throughout the house.

stepladder placed between two walls covered in dirt, needing renovation
The stairs to the family room completely collapsed due to years of water damage. (Photo VOPF)
bathroom sink, toilet and medicine cabinet in room with crumbling walls and filth on the floor
Significant damage was done to the bathroom walls and floor. (Photo VOPF)

A Remarkable Transformation Over the Past Year

empty room with an entry door, stairway up and opening to another room
A view from the living room toward the main entrance (right), the kitchen (left), and the stairs to the three bedrooms. (Photo John Hudzik)

The improvements made through the SSTI program have been nothing short of remarkable. Now, the house has new, freshly painted wallboard, new flooring, recessed lighting, a new roof, a sprinkler system, and all new energy-efficient kitchen appliances. The house has three bedrooms, two full baths, a kitchen, a living room, a large family room on the lower level, and a two-car attached garage.

The kitchen has new cabinets and countertops. and energy-efficient appliances. (Photos John Hudzik)

The open house also provided local real estate agents with the opportunity to preview and potentially market the property. Some exterior siding and garage drywall work needs to be finished over the next two weeks, but other than that, the construction work is complete.

photo of room with trash on walls and floor and furniture in disrepair
empty room with clean walls and floors and recessed lighting in the ceiling
Before remodeling (top), the family room was in terrible condition and required total renovation. (Photo VOPF) Post renovation (bottom), the family room has new flooring, wallboard, windows, and recessed lighting. (Photo John Hudzik)

Neighborhood Welcomes the Project

The village invited neighbors to the open house to see the final product. These residents have witnessed the house’s decade-long deterioration and the rehab effort over the past year.

Shirley and Keith Kluge, who live next door to the remodeled house, are very pleased with the improvements.

“The house is beautiful. We are so pleased with this project,” was Keith’s immediate reaction upon viewing the house’s interior.

The Kluges, both former educators, were also excited for another reason. “It feels wonderful to have the work done, but even more so because of who was doing it. We appreciated that it involved students, working and learning under a trained professional, and because it was really a community project,” Shirley commented.

Shirley worked in the Media Center at Rich South High School, and Keith taught at the former Rich East High School from 1967 through 2000. Shirley said they believe it is essential for young people to realize that good jobs are available in the trades.

The Kluges moved into their Park Forest home fifty years ago in 1973. Their pride in the neighborhood and village is evident, and they have no plans or desire to live anywhere else.

Previous SSTI Homes Have Sold Quickly

While the house needed extensive work, its condition was similar to other SSTI projects over the past few years. This is the sixth SSTI project in the village. Previous rehabbed houses are at 305 Sauganash Street, 336 Early Street, 117 Wilson Street, 74 Marquette Street, and 76 Winslow Street.

The previous SSTI home on Winslow Street sold for $205,000 in August 2023. Andrew Brown, Park Forest Assistant Director of Economic Development & Planning, stated that the completed SSTI homes sell quickly, often above the original market listing. Brown noted that proceeds from selling the houses, less material, subcontracting, and real estate marketing fees go back to the village to help fund future SSTI projects.

one story house with white railing in front and a badly damaged roof
406 Sauk Trail was selected as the next SSTI project. (Photo John Hudzik)

SSTI Chooses the Next House Project

Tracy said a house has already been selected for the seventh SSTI project. The home at 406 Sauk Trail is in the early stages of clean-up in preparation for the SSTI teams to begin their work later this year.


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