Robert Rose (CCLBA) interview
Robert Rose is the executive director of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) - a government entity that manages County-owned property acquired through tax foreclosure. The CCLBA operates much like a for-profit business in order to stay financially buoyant to continue the pursuit of its non-profit mission, to:
"promote redevelopment and reuse of vacant, abandoned, foreclosed or tax-delinquent properties; support targeted efforts to stabilize neighborhoods; stimulate residential, commercial and industrial development"
The proposal I put forward in my latest essay "adjusts the remit of the Cook County Land Bank Authority to facilitate the existing sunflower-based biofuel plans of [...] Bronzeville Urban Development. The phytoremediation properties of this crop would create plots safe for food production by a proposed network of local growers. This alliance would increase land occupation, mitigate the food access problem, and provide new context for community interaction" (extract from essay). I was keen to speak to Rose regarding some of the assumptions I had to make in order to write the essay.
Rose described a 'neighbourhood psychosis' into which the CCLBA must always invest time and capital, in order to add social value to the properties it acquires. He said this mostly came from his staff out in the field engaging with the local residents adjoining properties in the CCLBA inventory - the ideal candidates for purchasing properties in the CCLBA inventory, effectively filling in block voids by expanding existing individual properties.
I was pleased to finally understand the calculated (and agreed) distance the CCLBA maintains with the City government, staying outside of political shifts and bureaucracy, but within funding and communication loops. Rose described it as a 'great relationship' that serves both the City and the CCLBA efficiently.
Other things to note. Rose said that fencing is the single most effective crime deterrent that the CCLBA can use with vacant plots - apparently it poses an obstruction to would-be criminals fleeing the site after a potential drug deal. He would also like to pinch the average holding time for properties in the inventory down from 5 or 6 years to around 3.