Signs of hope or bouncing along the bottom in Downers Grove?

Neumann Homes was the first of Chicago's large locally-based builders to file for bankruptcy protection during the current housing downtown. The company's 2007 filing was a harbinger of far more pain ahead for the homebuilding industry – the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

Trib Local is reporting that developer Ken Neumann, now billing his efforts as Greenscape Ventures, has applied for approval of a 13-home subdivision in Downers Grove. Village officials are touting that, and an increase in building permit applications, as signs that the economy is on the mend.

Will Neumann once again be foreshadowing the future? As quoted by Trib Local, Neumann himself seems a bit uncertain as to what lies ahead:

Neumann said that, compared to the dismal years of the last decade, the building market is improving. And he said the number of buildings going up in Downers Grove was comparable to many other DuPage County suburbs.

“If there were 39 (building) permits pulled last year, 39 is still 39 times more than the one (permit) from 2008, so it’s a huge improvement,” Neumann said.

However, it is still a far cry from the boom years. And he warned against overtly optimistic appraisals.

“As a market, (the local construction industry) might build 4,000 new homes this year. That’s a small cry in comparison to the years of ’05, ’06 and ’07,”Neumann said “It’s not cause to get over-excited . We’re still bouncing along the bottom … It’s not boom times in Chicago. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic.”

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