HOPKINS PARK — Antonio Givens has a dream for a 5-acre plot of land he owns in Pembroke Township.
On that land, which is located on East 13000South Road about a quarter-mile south of Hopkins Park’s village limits, he sees a housing development that includes retail, commercial and entertainment.
The $9.2 million project proposed by his company, Ernest Givens Development, would have 31 townhomes, each with three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a two-car garage.
Of the 31 townhomes, 20 percent (six units) would be dedicated to low-income subsidized housing.
The development — which he said would be solar-powered — would also include a community center, a small bank, restaurant and retail store. Givens, 39, says he has secured a loan and federal grants to finance the project.
Mihesha Gibbs organized an Oct. 7 meeting as a means to bring village residents together to discuss the proposal as well as the future of the village.
During that meeting, the soft-spoken Givens answered questions and listened to their hopes and concerns. It was the third meeting held in regard to the proposed real estate development.
The second meeting didn’t go well.
“We were disrespectful and didn’t listen to what he had to say,” Gibbs said. “I want to hear what he has to say. We have to think about this for younger generations. Some things need to change. I have children. I want them to have a chance.
“Remember, this is only a proposal,” Gibbs emphasized to the 35 people who attended the Oct. 7 meeting at the National Association for Black Veterans building.
Gibbs said she moved back to Hopkins Park from Minnesota a few months ago because she felt strongly about the future for the village and township.
“I want to be part of the change,” she said.
That included her children, whose generation are the future of the village, she said.
“It’s about their generation and the one after that,” Gibbs said.
Givens said he is not new to business. He said he has run a restaurant, barber shop and beauty salon.
His company, Ernest Givens Development, is named after his father who passed away last year.
Givens said it was his father who gave him the idea to buy the land, which was being sold by his father’s best friend.
“My original idea was to build a house on the land to be able to come down here [from Chicago] and think,” Givens said. “Then I changed my thinking. These people need housing, and I dedicated this plan to my father.”
Givens said he has worked with a local engineering firm and architect to draw up the plans, and is hopeful to bring those before a governmental board soon.
Givens first thought the governmental entity he would work with would be the village but has since learned the property comes under Kankakee County jurisdiction. The land is currently zoned for agriculture.
Hopkins Park Mayor Hodge said the village is willing to talk about annexing the property into the village.
“Right now, there are no plans or public hearings,” said Hodge, adding that there are many steps to be taken before the project would get off the ground. “We are putting the cart before the horse. I came here tonight to listen to the plans.”
He said the original proposal called for 90-plus residences, which Hodge called “too big.”
“He came back with this new proposal, and I think it is a good one,” he said.
There were many questions from residents who attended the Oct. 7 meeting. Topics addressed include funding sources, job creation possibilities and the possible relocation of the plan. The proposed new location was 137 acres in the eastern part of the village that already has sewer and water.
That property was purchased from the state of Illinois, according to Pembroke Township Supervisor Sam Payton, who is also a Kankakee County Board member.
Resident Stephanie Hammond said after the meeting that the village needs to address improving its infrastructure before going forward with a project like the one proposed by Givens.
Hammond talked about sidewalks and curbs as well as street lighting. Upgrading the village’s sewage system is needed as well, she said.
“We need to get this done first,” she said.
But, Hodge said, younger residents are leaving the village because of a lack of amenities.
“Our children are moving to Kankakee, St. Anne and Momence because they do not have the amenities like those communities,” Hodge said.
“If we want this community to thrive, we need to do something for them,” Hodge said. “Folks, we are losing population. We used to have 5,000 to 6,000 people in the township. We’re down to like 2,000 people now.”