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

SSTI: Transforming an Empty Home on Gentry St. Into a Move-In Ready Property

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The house at 244 Gentry was vacant for over a decade. The garage, a converted carport, was collapsing. The basement flooded, covered in mold from years of precipitation with no sump pump. The wallboard plaster contained asbestos. The house had traces of feces from animals who made this house their winter home. The roof had gaping holes.

exterior view of house being renovated
244 Gentry Street is the latest Park Forest house to be renovated under the SSTI program. (Photo John Hudzik)

These are just a few obstacles facing the South Suburban Trades Initiative (SSTI) as they began their latest project to fully rehab the property and make it a desirable, state-of-the-art home for new residents.

SSTI Provides a Building Trades Learning Opportunity

SSTI is a cooperative program among the Village of Park Forest, the South Suburban College (SSC) Building Trades Construction Technology Program, and the Prairie State HVAC training curriculum. This is the sixth Park Forest house SSTI rehabbed. The last project, at 76 Winslow Street, sold for $205,000. Like the Gentry house, it also was vacant for many years and required similar refurbishment.

box truck with ladders on top and ladders on top
South Suburban College Construction Technology Program students take a leading role in renovations. (Photo John Hudzik)

Eugene Damiani runs the SSC program. He worked with all previous SSTI renovations. Damiani says he currently has five SSC students working on the house twice a week. The project serves as a training vehicle for the students who learn skills in many renovation areas.

interior of house with only wooden studs showing with ladders leaning against walls
All the interior wallboards had to be removed before work could begin due to asbestos and years of mold. (Photo John Hudzik)

Challenges confronting the renovation team

The Park Forest Project Manager, David Tracy, noted that the renovations, while extensive, are similar to those needed in previous SSTI projects. Tracy said that in this case, professionals removed all the wallboards before the students could safely begin their work due to the asbestos and mold problems in the house.

One of the first projects was stabilizing the garage structure with all new rafters. A single carport was converted at some point to a two-car garage. The garage extension was separating from the house and was in danger of collapsing.

garage exterior under repair with worker in the foreground
Previous owners had converted a single carport to a double garage. The extension was separating, and the rafters were collapsing. (Photo John Hudzik)

While the SSTI team can care for many repairs, they sometimes need professional help. The village subcontracted much of the plumbing work, which will start soon. The SSC students began the work by removing all the existing pipes.

The students from Prairie State will begin installing the new furnace and associated ductwork within the next few weeks.

Union involvement is a crucial component.

Local unions also help in the Gentry Street rehab efforts, often using the rehab houses to train their new members. The Chicago Roofers Joint Apprentice & Training Program Local 11 will place a new roof on the house. The Painter’s District Council Number 14 will assist in the placement of new wallboards and in painting. Finally, Sprinkler Fitters Local 281 will install new fire sprinklers required for major renovations in the village.

Completed houses sell quickly.

When finished next Spring, the refurbished home will have three bedrooms, two full baths, a family room, new windows, and all new energy-efficient appliances, including a new furnace and air conditioning system.

Previously renovated SSTI homes have quickly sold at higher prices than other home sales in the village.  Proceeds from selling the houses, less material, subcontracting, and real estate marketing fees go back to the village to help fund future SSTI renovation projects.

Previous Park Forest homes refurbished under the SSTI program are 305 Sauganash Street, 336 Early Street, 117 Wilson Street, 74 Marquette Street, and 76 Winslow Street.