City Of Wilkes-Barre Partners With Florida-Based Management Company To Enforce Registry Of Blighted Properties

WILKES-BARRE, PA — City officials on Monday announced an agreement with a Florida-based management company to maintain a database of the city’s ballooning number of blighted properties. The database will also allow residents to submit locations of abandoned properties on the city’s website.

The partnership comes at no cost to taxpayers, said Andrew LaFratte, municipal affairs manager.

LaFratte said Community Champions, formed in 2008, will receive half of every $200 registration fee the city gets when a vacant property is registered. An ordinance enacted in 2010 initially proposed an incremental charge for vacant properties, ranging from $150 the first year to more than $5,000 for a property vacant more than 10 years.

Community Champions will be charged with establishing the database and populating it with parcel data. Once the tool is live, LaFratte said, city officials will be trained on it. LaFratte said the entire process will likely be completed within a month.

Read more:

http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/153022937/Blight-registry-in-new-hands

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Wilkinsburg Tour To Highlight Blight In Hopes Of Spurring Redevelopment

It’s a home tour visitors don’t typically take: overgrown gardens leading to homes with boarded-up windows, peeling paint and broken stairs.

The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation and a group of Carnegie Mellon University students hope to highlight hidden beauty in the borough and reframe how people see vacant properties. The students conceived the idea for a Vacant Home Tour on May 9 as a way to address blight.

They’ll walk people through the history of five vacant properties in Wilkinsburg that could be prime candidates for restoration.

At each house, volunteer docents from the neighborhood, who researched the homes’ histories and owners, will present old photos or documents to show the houses in their heydays, said Marlee Gallagher, communications and outreach coordinator for the CDC.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/8083071-74/wilkinsburg-tour-properties#ixzz3XCZ490tS
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Columbus Provides Blueprint For How To Develop Mellon Arena Site

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  We love it when folks use existing successful business models for a blueprint. Why reinvent the wheel when a tweak will due 🙂

COLUMBUS, Ohio — About $1 billion in development around an arena primarily for hockey transformed a dreary section of downtown Columbus that used to be an industrial area and home to a run-down prison.

“People didn’t come downtown very often, and they certainly didn’t live here. Things are different now. This is a place to be,” said Sherri Lyle, 44, of suburban Powell, who works in Columbus’ 14-year-old Arena District.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are paying attention. The team is preparing to develop a 28-acre site where the Civic Arena stood, across Centre Avenue from the $321 million Consol Energy Center that opened in 2010.

“We’ve sat down and talked with them several times about what they have done relative to development,” said Penguins Chief Operating Officer Travis Williams, noting the team studied similar projects in Cincinnati, Dallas, Philadelphia, San Jose, Washington and Pittsburgh’s North Shore.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/allegheny/6881016-74/arena-district-area#ixzz3FOBkt9TK
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29 Luxury Apartments Planned For York City’s Northwest Triangle

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A unique, triangular building in downtown York City has piqued the interest of two young developers.

Seth Predix and Jordan Ilyes have proposed converting the Keystone Colorworks building, a former paint factory at 109 W. Gay Ave., into 29 luxury apartments.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority, which owns the building, voted Wednesday to draft a sales agreement for $100,000.

It could be months before the sale is final, but Wednesday’s decision “basically takes the building off the market,” said David Cross, who chairs the RDA.

Read more: http://www.yorkdispatch.com/breaking/ci_26378110/29-luxury-apartments-planned-york-citys-northwest-triangle

U.S. Senator Bob Casey Backs Community Development Funding

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (...

English: Official photo of Senator Bob Casey (D-PA). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey wants more money allocated to the Community Development Block Grant program to allow municipalities to decide what projects are most needed and have the funding to complete them.

During a teleconference Wednesday, Casey, D-Scranton, said the Obama administration has proposed cutting CDBG funding by more than $200 million this year. Casey wants the allocation to be increased in 2015.

“CDBG has played an instrumental role in advancing locally driven projects that create jobs and contribute to economic growth,” Casey said. “The cuts proposed in the administration’s budget could limit the ability of municipalities in Pennsylvania to complete economic development projects that are essential.”

He said he’s pushing for Congress to increase the funding.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1298260/Casey-backs-community-development-funding

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Allentown Mayor Announces Plans To Improve Poorest Neighborhoods

English: City of Allentown

English: City of Allentown (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski announced an initiative today to make health and safety improvements in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

The city has committed $2.5 million for such Center City improvements and has asked the business community to match or exceed that amount in donations.

Working with the Allentown School District, the city plans to focus on blight remediation, housing redevelopment, home ownership and streetscaping projects.

“I believe Allentown will become a beacon of hope and an economic model for redevelopment (that) can be replicated across the state and across the country,” Pawlowski said.

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/03/allentown_mayor_announces_plan.html

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Developers Plan $30 Million Makeover Along Second Avenue In Hazelwood

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A largely vacant stretch of Second Avenue in Hazelwood would be filled with music, youth programming, and commercial and residential space as part of a proposed makeover designed to complement the $1 billion former LTV coke works redevelopment.

Under the plan, the vacant Spahr Building, which was a former G. C. Murphy’s store, would be transformed into programming and performance space for Hazelwood’s faith-based Center of Life organization.

ACTION-Housing Inc. and Washington, D.C.-based Telesis Corp. are partnering on the proposed redevelopment, which also would include an additional 1.5 acres of vacant land or structures besides the Spahr Building, all in the 4800 block of Second Avenue.

City Urban Redevelopment Authority board members are expected to vote Thursday on whether to begin up to 18 months of exclusive negotiations with ACTION-Housing and Telesis for the sale of the properties needed for the projects.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/business/news/developers-plan-30m-hazelwood-makeover-706824/#ixzz2hHZveyXq

Conshohocken Community Garden Gives Borough Grand Green Makeover

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONSHOHOCKEN, PA — Hey Conshy, how does your garden grow?

Last spring, while the rest of us were procrastinating on that mythical vegetable garden we swore we’d finally get around to planting, those early birds at the Conshohocken Community Garden were busy tilling the organically fertilized soil and getting their cucumber seeds and tomato plants into the earth where they needed to be.

And now they’re reaping the harvest.

Practically everything’s growing like crazy here at 411 E. Elm Street — c’mon, cantaloupes, what’re you waiting for? — on what was for decades an eyesore of a vacant lot.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20120729/NEWS01/120729484/conshohocken-community-garden-gives-borough-grand-green-makeover&pager=1

Art Blossoms In MOSAIC Community Garden Summer Program

Pottstown, Pa – Campers at the Pottstown branch of the Olivet Boys and Girls Club are learning about fresh, organic vegetables while keeping their creativity humming in a unique summer program at the MOSAIC Community Garden at 423 Chestnut Street in Pottstown.

About twenty campers, aged 10-12 years old, are participating in the six-week program.  One morning each week they walk from the Ricketts Center to the garden, where they spend a couple of hours working on an art project and caring for their organization’s two plots as well as the communal plots around the perimeter of the garden.  So far the children have painted benches in whimsical colors, learned how to use binoculars from a birding expert, and painted birdhouses to take home.  They have also taken home collard greens and had the chance to sample blueberries and cherry tomatoes while watering the many plants being grown around the perimeter of the garden.

Funding for the program, which was designed by Pottstown resident Hannah Davis, is being provided by Susquehanna Bank through Genesis Housing Corporation.  Ms. Davis is teaching the art classes along with Natalie Cyphers.

“We’re grateful to Susquehanna and Judy Memberg of Genesis for making it possible for us to offer programming in our first year of operating the garden,” said David Jackson, president of MOSAIC.  “We want young people especially to experience the benefits of gardening and the arts.”

The remaining three workshops will focus on the life cycle of butterflies and making butterfly mobiles, creating mosaic tile stepping-stones for the garden, and making pizzas at the Ricketts Center with ingredients picked fresh from the garden.

The MOSAIC Community Garden is owned and operated by MOSAIC Community Land Trust, which is seeking additional community garden sites for 2013 in order to expand the supply of fresh vegetables and healthy lifestyle choices for Pottstown residents.  Support for acquisition and construction of the garden came from the Pottstown School District, Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, National Penn Bank, Genesis Housing Corporation, Susquehanna Bank, Lowes, Borough of Pottstown, Davey Tree Experts, and Andrew Monastra, Esq.

MOSAIC Community Land Trust (CLT) has an office and art gallery at 10 S. Hanover Street in downtown Pottstown.  They welcome donations in support of their mission to increase homeownership, develop community gardens, and support the arts in Pottstown.  Membership in the CLT is open to all; details can be found at their website at www.mosaiccommunitylandtrust.org or by calling David Jackson at 484-949-4235.

Mosaic Community Garden – Pottstown’s Hidden Jewel On Chestnut Street

Pottstown, PA – I was given a tour of the new Community Garden on Chestnut Street yesterday by Katy Jackson.  The garden was formerly a broken down playground full of weeds, drug dealers and hookers.  The school district and the borough worked with Mosaic to make this project happen.  It is now a source of pride and a stabilizing factor in the neighborhood.

The large space was cleared and has been subdivided into 34 individual plots that people are using to grow their own vegetables.  There is also a flower garden near the front entrance, a patio area and a common gathering area in the rear.  An amphitheater is being constructed for lectures and programs.  There is a shed full of tools, three hoses for water and several adult and child picnic tables.  In addition, there is a composter in the rear of the property that will be brought back into working order so that gardeners can all contribute to the communal composter.

There is an educational component to the garden as well as the ability to grow one’s own food.  There is art programming at the garden this summer in conjunction with the Olivet Boys & Girls Club/Ricketts Center.  20-25 children are attending.  The children have painted the benches the past three Thursday mornings and this Thursday they are gathering at the garden to paint bird houses.

There is special kids pizza garden and a middle school garden.

People are harvesting green beans, lettuce, yellow squash and tomatoes.

This Saturday, July 14th, there is a composting workshop at the garden.  Lectures will be given on traditional composting and worm composting.  This workshop runs from 9am to 11am.  The presenters will be Laura Washington and Scott Winter.

Future plans include selling produce grown from the garden and additional community garden sites being added in Pottstown.  There are many volunteers who have put hours of sweat equity into making this garden a huge success.  They should all be commended!

For more information about the tremendous project, click here: http://pottstownclt.wordpress.com/

***New Blog Category***

A new category labeled Revitalization has been added so that readers, specifically interested in municipal revitalization/economic development, can find all related posts under this subject in a single location.

I went back through all 930 posts to ensure they were all included.  As of this writing, there are 60 posts about revitalization and economic development in various Pennsylvania cities and towns under the Revitalization category.

Philadelphia’s Chinatown Cleans Up Blight – Neighborhood Expands North Past Vine Street Expressway

Chinatown district of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Image via Wikipedia

Philadelphia’s Chinatown is one of the largest in the United States and a must see for visitors to Philadelphia, residents of the city and suburbanites alike.  For that matter, anyone who loves Asian cuisine and culture should explore Philadelphia’s Chinatown.

In recent years Chinatown was threatened and some area was lost due to the construction of the Vine Street Expressway, the Gallery mall, Market Street East train station and the Convention Center.  It was also the proposed location for a prison and a new ball park for the Phillies.  45 years ago, the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation was formed to keep Chinatown alive and well in Philadelphia.

Chinatown’s borders are Arch Street on the south, Vine Street on the north, 11th Street on the west and 8th Street on the east.  Recently Chinatown has expanded across Vine Street into what has become known as Chinatown North.

The area where 10th Street crosses the Vine Street Expressway had become a garbage dump and a sleeping area for the homeless.  10th Street is a vital link from Chinatown to Chinatown North.  The Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Hahnemann University Hospital cosponsored a new gateway area for Chinatown. The $300,000 project was recently completed and has transformed an undesirable area into a beautiful public space called 10th Street Plaza.

A seven ton foo dog, hand carved from granite in the Fujian Province, stands guard at each end of the newly formed plaza.  One is male, the other female.  An Asian-style pergola was constructed, which during the warmer months will provide shade from climbing vines.  Tables, benches and lighting were also added transforming the area into an outdoor gathering place.  An eight-foot-tall statue of Lin Zexu will also join the foo dogs in the plaza.

The area north of Vine Street was formerly a warehouse/industrial district but has now become a haven for businesses who want to be near Chinatown.  Restaurant suppliers, travel agencies and construction firms for starters.  This northerly migration has created much needed room for Chinatown to expand, thus making the 10th Street crossing a pivotal component for neighborhood revitalization and stabilization.  Many people who live and work in Chinatown must use the 10th Street overpass every day.

A formal dedication of 10th Street Plaza is scheduled for spring.

Another Example Of Brownfield Reclamation!

This is another great example of what could happen here in Pottstown.  I am hopeful that the new economic development coalition will consider projects like this!

http://www.centralpennbusiness.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=80525&Itemid=109&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Wilkes-Barre Urban Renewal Project Shows What Can Be Accomplished

I think this is a great example of urban renewal, blight eradication, working together, finding available money and utilizing elected officials to facilitate change.

The City of Wilkes-Barre has worked with Senator Bob Casey and Congressman Paul Kanjorski to obtain $950,000 in federal funding that will be put toward the $13.7 million dollar renovation of Coal Street Park into the future home of the Wilkes-Barre Penguins Hockey Team.  This ice skating rink has been an abandoned and blighted property in the city of Wilkes-Barre for the last seven years.  No city general fund revenue has been allocated toward this endeavor but instead the project is being funded by state and federal grants.

Coal Street Park is in a high traffic area and a gateway to downtown Wilkes-Barre.  The property spans 31 acres and will receive an extensive renovation.  Moving the Penguins into the city will bring 20 full-time and 40 part-time jobs, bring more consumers/money into downtown Wilkes-Barre and add to the quality of life for city residents.  Currently the W/B Penguins are located in suburban Plains Township.

There is money out there.  This is why a cohesive and unified vision is needed for Pottstown.