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Rebuilding our Community, Rebuilding Hope: 1159 South Community Development Corporation

The home’s front entry

The Springfield Foundation welcomes the start of a new year fresh off our grant making cycle, which awarded 75 nonprofits with over $841,000 to invest into the most critical needs within our community.

One of the critical issues in Springfield is the amount of homes that are non-livable or simply eye sores in our neighborhoods. In parts of southwest Springfield, more than one third of structures (houses and other buildings) are vacant. Our community is a committed, hopeful one and there is an organization stepping up to support the rebuilding of southwest Springfield’s distressed properties.

Lori Searcy, Co-Founder of 1159 South Community Development Corporation, describes their plans:  

1159 South Community Development Corporation has started a significant, block-based neighborhood improvement program, called Rebuilding Blocks.  The program is engaging neighbors, employing residents, and increasing quality, affordable housing. Work on a housing rehab pilot project (shown here) is underway.  It is a 3-bedroom, 1-bath house built in 1925.   

This Project is Just the Beginning

Over the next five years, 1159 South plans to rehabilitate at least 15 distressed houses on two-to-three target blocks.  Two homes will be rehabbed in 2022, and the number of houses rehabbed is expected to increase every year.  The idea is to develop a critical mass of quality, affordable homes on target blocks in concentrated areas that ultimately help to rebuild entire neighborhoods and distressed parts of the community.

1159 South is targeting a housing stock that is among the worst in the city and visibly in need of significant investment. Substandard housing and fragile neighborhood bonds negatively impact the personal security, safety, physical and mental health of residents in multiple ways. All too often, substandard and unsafe housing conditions hit the most vulnerable populations the hardest.  This includes children, the elderly, those living in poverty, and historically disadvantaged minority communities. Unfortunately, that is true in Southwest Springfield. Many households in this majority African American community have children or elderly residents living in them.

Without the physical and personal security of decent housing, children’s sense of safety and ability to focus on education are seriously compromised.  Lack of affordable housing has been linked to inadequate nutrition, especially among children, when parents must choose between shelter and other necessities like healthcare, transportation, and food. Children also suffer disproportionately and long-term from adverse health effects of lead, asbestos, and other allergens and toxins often found in substandard housing. 

1159 South is a Beacon of Hope

1159 South’s motto is “from the community, for the community” and is comprised of people who know, understand, and work very closely with residents.  1159 South seeks to help residents realize the community’s vision for their own neighborhoods. Visible signs of positive change are springing up, and serious work to improve housing conditions has begun.  There is every reason to believe that 2022 will mark the beginning of a time in the not-too-distant future where “distressed” housing is a distant and unfamiliar term in our community. 

In 2022, the Springfield Foundation is supporting the Rebuilding Blocks program with a $95,000 grant.  This will help complete the pilot rehab, support operating costs, and allow 1159 South to hire an employee focused solely on improving housing and neighborhoods in the community. The Community Health Foundation and the Crabill Family Foundation have also provided substantial support for the program.

For more information about 1159 South Community Development Corporation, visit