Earlier this month, I interviewed Bernard Headley — a former community lending specialist and mortgage banker — for a story on his most recent position as a community justice coordinator with the Cook County State’s Attorney that will be published next week in print and online. Headley talked about what it will take for an economic renaissance to happen on the West Side.

One of the ways to turn things around is to have money coming back into our community and for our money to be spent here. Our dollars have to turnover at a higher rate here in the neighborhood. [Austin entrepreneurs] Malcolm Crawford and Charmaine Rickett of AAABNA [the Austin African American Business Networking Association] have been trying to make sure people understand that.

Their methods of talking about utilizing Chicago Avenue as an economic driver within the community really got me going. Austin is full of potential, full of potential — from the housing end to the business end.

On doing it right

I had a client who [owns properties]. He was young, 27 at the time, when he bought his first piece of property. He wanted to get into real estate and I gave him the same sermon [I give others]. You know, ‘This is how you do it.’ I talked to him about how to get money from the bank, how you have to keep your credit up and have your ducks in a row.

I’ve watched him grow his portfolio to over 20 properties over a three-year span. He has properties throughout the West Side of Chicago, now. And he did it the right way. 

When he refinanced one property, he took the cash out but he didn’t go spend it; he went and put it back into the building he had. He sold the building, took that money and he kept, literally, stacking money on top of money. 

Then he started stacking units. Instead of buying and flipping them, like a lot of people do, he bought, held and rented units out. Now, he’s renting to people in the community. He fixes properties up, real solid properties, and gives people a good place to stay.