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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New Beginning: Allentown’s Warrington Avenue Poised For A Makeover

The crowd inside — and eventually outside — 816 E. Warrington Ave. one recent evening gathered to showcase a newly renovated Allentown property. The former Ken’s Variety had been vacant for more than 20 years.

As the evening deepened, “Open in Allentown,” a “pop-up” event with a garage-style glass door rolled up, became a stew of neighborhood leaders, investors, consultants, residents of Allentown and nearby neighborhoods mingling over cocktails and catered nibbles.

The event and mix of people signified what Hilltop Alliance executive director Aaron Sukenik called “Warrington Avenue in its reinvention phase.”

One mile from Downtown (Pittsburgh) and cradled by the hot markets of Mount Washington and the South Side Slopes, Allentown is riddled with residential blight, and 35 percent of its commercial properties are vacant. But the newly repaved Warrington Avenue is on the cusp of a transition from being seedy to being seen.

Read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2015/04/06/New-beginning-in-Allentown-Warrington-Avenue-poised-for-a-makeover/stories/201504060015

Once-Abandoned South Wilkes-Barre Warehouse Gets New Life Behind Colorful Upgrade

WILKES-BARRE, PA — A bare shell.

That was the state of 152 Horton St. in South Wilkes-Barre before Steve Taren pegged it as the new site of his graphic and design business.

Taren, 57, owns and operates Wet Paint Printing & Design out of the location. Before he purchased the property last year, the former South Wilkes-Barre woodworking warehouse was fully gutted — abandoned for five years as looters stripped it clean of anything remotely valuable.

“Every wire, every piece of copper, even the water meter which is made of brass, they were all gone,” Taren said.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news-news/152665332/

Donora Demolishing Former Fifth Street School

For more than a decade, Virginia Summers anticipated the day she could gaze across the street from her Donora home and see – nothing.

She is about to get her wish.

The borough on Thursday began demolition of the century-old building known as Fifth Street School. The structure, located at the intersection of Fifth Street and Allen Avenue, has been deteriorating for years and had become a safety issue.

“It’s been a pest,” Summers said. “… It is unsafe and everybody knows it. You could see bricks falling down. We’ve been troubling council for 10 years asking to please get it down, get it down. And I’m grateful they were finally able to make it happen.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmonvalley/yourmonvalleymore/8054591-74/street-borough-building#ixzz3Vb3VVDgV
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Homegrown Middle Class: A Neighborhoods Policy For Philadelphia

To John Kromer the city’s persistent poverty is best tackled at the neighborhood level. In a four-part series of commentaries Kromer, an urban housing and development consultant and former city housing director, will explore different policy interventions the next administration can deploy to reduce poverty, stabilize neighborhoods, and finance anti-blight work. Kromer lays the foundation with this first installment:

Mayoral and City Council candidates rarely have to take strong positions on neighborhood issues because other topics, such as taxes, crime, schools, and drugs, are more likely to attract voter interest when presented in a citywide, rather than neighborhood-specific context. Given all the demands of a hectic campaign season, most candidates don’t bother to bring forward substantive proposals for improving the condition of Philadelphia neighborhoods until after the elections.

The lower-priority status of neighborhoods as a campaign issue is particularly unfortunate, because the city’s biggest problem—the persistently high level of poverty in Philadelphia—can only be solved at the neighborhood level.

Organizing a neighborhoods policy that can be effective in reducing poverty levels is doable but complicated. Doing so requires thinking about existing strengths and weaknesses and future opportunities in a new way and seeking to obtain political buy-in for a new approach immediately. Advocates for fundamental policy changes can’t afford to wait until after the inauguration ceremony, after the appointment of planning and development officials, and after the presentation of the new administration’s first budget. Anyone who’s serious about planning to significantly reduce poverty during the next city administration needs to begin now.

Read more:

http://planphilly.com/eyesonthestreet/2015/03/16/homegrown-middle-class-a-neighborhoods-policy-for-philadelphia

McKeesport Backs Effort To Rebuild Housing In Seventh Ward

McKeesport soon may have two new homes built in the city’s Seventh Ward cultural and educational district — and perhaps more after that.

City council Wednesday gave “unqualified support” to ACTION-Housing Inc.’s requests for funding for two homes on space cleared near the Twin Rivers school complex.

“ACTION-Housing will act as a partner with the city in the development and sale of the two new homes,” Mayor Michael Cherepko wrote in a letter dated Feb. 27 to Allegheny County’s Department of Economic Development.

That department handles a housing development fund and affordable housing trust fund that could be part of a mix of funding sources the nonprofit will pursue.

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmckeesport/yourmckeesportmore/7898583-74/housing-mckeesport-action#ixzz3TcnnpAo8
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Half A Block Leveled Without Permits In Philadelphia

Little more than a year after a botched demolition triggered a Center City building collapse that killed six, a demolition company took down nearly half a block of buildings in Philadelphia’s Fairmount section without obtaining the required permits, an Inquirer investigation has found.

While dismantling five buildings last spring, Ashaw Demolition of Oxford Circle also brought down a house that had been in a family for four generations without informing the owner, the owner contends in court documents.

And Ashaw used at least some of the unsafe and discredited techniques that caused the collapse at 22d and Market Streets, city inspectors said.

The demolition violated tough new rules the city adopted so the tragedy of the collapse would never be repeated, inspectors said.

Read more:

http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Building_anxiety_at_LandI.html

Harmony and Unity in Pottstown…

Roy:

We here at Roy’s Rants wholeheartedly support the Fecera’s project as the needed catalyst for revitalization in Pottstown Borough. One large project that is successfully completed will demonstrate to other developers and investors that the climate has changed. A large, empty building does nothing except breed blight and crime. A restored, well lighted and full building will transform a neighborhood. Council needs to approve this project for the betterment of Pottstown. Failure to do so will contribute to the downward spiral of this once great community.

Originally posted on Corruption, Cronyism, Poverty Pimps in Pottstown, Pa:

That’s a rare sighting in this little borough.

If you happen to be among those Pottstownians who aren’t sure they can get behind the Beech St. Lofts project, a couple things to think about:

Pottstown has only ONE non-profit, community art gallery/school – ArtFusion19464 – in fact, ArtFusion just celebrated TEN YEARS in Pottstown. It’s pretty phenomenal that the gallery/school has weathered their own financial storms and the years long national economic downturn.  It is cause for celebration…

Declining conditions in Pottstown haven’t exactly been a boon to their business either – but again – the art gallery/school is a SURVIVOR!!

The High St. building that ArtFusion has occupied for lo these many years is on the market, FOR SALE. ArtFusion’s future might have lingered in the balance instead…

The vision for the Beech St. Lofts nicely dovetailed with their own desire to grow, to have more space for the arts, to…

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Penn Hills Wants To Step Up Code Enforcement, Cite Violators

Penn Hills officials say they plan to be more proactive in code enforcement while they wait for litigation to free up funds for additional code enforcement officers.

“The current number of code enforcement officers is not acceptable for the needs within the municipality,” Deputy Mayor Sara Kuhn said at the Dec. 22 meeting.

At a public budget hearing attended by about 60 residents, nearly every speaker asked council to include funds in the 2015 budget to increase the number of code enforcement officers.

Penn Hills resident Sandy Sikora told council that more code enforcement officers are needed to help fight blight and code violation in the municipality.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/7435434-74/story#ixzz3Mk2LvFog
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Movement Underway In NEPA Counties, Cities To Form Land Banks

When General Motors shut down factories in Michigan, the city of Flint lost more than 70,000 auto industry jobs, resulting in an exodus of residents from the 1980s through today that left the city with half the population of its heyday.

The crisis created a cycle of abandonment and blight that prompted the region to create the Genesee County Land Bank, which spearheaded several major redevelopment projects in the city’s downtown, sold 4,683 tax-foreclosed properties from 2004-13 and demolished 3,400 buildings.

Some public officials in Northeastern Pennsylvania cities like Scranton and Hazleton have been thinking of forming their own land banks since Gov. Tom Corbett last year signed legislation enabling cities around the state to do so. Pittston and several neighboring Luzerne County municipalities recently created their own version.

“One issue we all face, that we really have a hard time fighting at the municipal level, is blight,” said Larry West, regional director for state Sen. John Blake, D-Archbald. “We have buildings sitting there on the tax repository list that are boarded up or have burned down.”

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/movement-underway-in-nepa-counties-cities-to-form-land-banks-1.1806370

No Man’s Land, Atlantic City

full-state map

full-state map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tucked into northeast Atlantic City, where ocean meets inlet, is a two-by-six block expanse of undeveloped land that in other shore towns would be carved up by wealthy outsiders to build $2 million homes.

Instead, the few surviving, decades-old houses dot hundreds of empty lots like jagged teeth at the mouth of a yawning ocean in this sleepy part of town. Some call it North Beach; others South Inlet. Bill Terrigino, 69, lives at one end, his home one of those visible teeth.

An empty Revel casino shimmers in the background, emblematic of the mirage Atlantic City has become. Terrigino, a laid-off casino banquet server who resembles a Jersey Shore version of Hemingway, has a two-story home on South Metropolitan Avenue.

His house boasts an unobstructed waterfront view – but not by design. It’s just that nothing stands between it and the Atlantic Ocean.

Read more: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/new_jersey/No_Mans_Land_Atlantic_City_.html

Dilapidated Buildings Hinder Greensburg Downtown Growth

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

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

Leaky roofs and outdated structures are one big reason why about 20 percent of downtown Greensburg storefronts are vacant, despite businesses clamoring to move in, according to the Greensburg Community Development Corp.

The nonprofit plans to purchase four of the dilapidated buildings within the next year, and pursue private and public grants to fix them up and resell them to private owners, said Steven Gifford, its executive director.

Downtown real estate is in demand, with more businesses wanting to move into storefronts than there is space available, according to Gifford. Despite this, about one-fifth of the city’s 138 storefronts remain vacant, often because they are too run down or unsafe to occupy.

The development corporation has identified seven buildings with leaking roofs, and another five that cannot be occupied because of building code deficiencies, such as missing sprinkler systems and staircases.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/westmoreland/7098524-74/buildings-gifford-owners#ixzz3J9lEs6Fm
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Monsour Hospital Properties Sold At Free-And-Clear Sale

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

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

The Westmoreland County Land Bank purchased the former Monsour hospital property in Jeannette for $15,712 on Friday at a free-and-clear judicial sale.

Two other properties also owned by Monsour Medical Center, located just west in Hempfield on the opposite side of Route 30, also were sold Friday after a bidding war. A vacant office building, house and garage stand on those properties.

In August a judge ordered that the properties be put up for bid at a free-and-clear sale after no owners, creditors or lienholders showed up at a hearing to object.

Officials are awaiting approval of an application for about $1 million in state funds to demolish the buildings and remediate the property. The project is anticipated to cost about $2 million.

Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/7025901-74/bank-county-site#ixzz3H6LLBfMG
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Pittsburgh Study Shows City’s Vibrancy Has Returned

DSC01844Editor’s note:  We found this to be true during our visit there this summer. Pittsburgh has drastically changed over the last 10 years and the improvement is palpable.

Pittsburgh has transformed from an economically stagnant, transient city to “somewhere people want to come to and stay for a long time,” according to Doug Heuck, director of Pittsburgh Today.

A new report from the statistics-based project reflects this trend in increased home ownership, showing more residents are making the city their home.

The report shows the Pittsburgh region has the highest percentage of owner-occupied housing compared to 14 other metropolitan areas with comparable size and demographics, according to U.S. Census figures.

Factors like employment opportunities, education and housing have turned the city into “somewhere people want to come to and stay for a long time,” Mr. Heuck said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/10/18/Study-shows-Pittsburgh-s-vibrancy-has-returned/stories/201410180017

Monday Update: Scranton’s Hill Secton Neighbors Want To Tackle Blight

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

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

Some Hill Section residents have an ambitious plan to combat ugly, vacant properties in the neighborhood, but their solution would need approval from city officials.

The Hill Neighborhood Association, a nonprofit with the goal of improving that section of Scranton, wants the city to turn several small, vacant properties over to the organization. On Thursday, Ozzie Quinn, association president, went before city council and asked that the city resurrect a vacant properties committee to review blighted properties and sell those in the Hill Section to the association for a nominal fee.

This summer, the neighborhood association approached the city about many of the overgrown, vacant lots they wanted to mow and trim back to respectability. City solicitor Jason Shrive told the association it needed to sign waivers and have liability insurance to work in the vacant lots.

The Hill group got insurance, Mr. Quinn said, but was then told it would need to sign right-of-entry agreements with landlords before cleaning properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/monday-update-hill-secton-neighbors-want-to-tackle-blight-1.1766117

McKeesport OKs Taking Vacant Homes Via Eminent Domain

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United ...

Map of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

McKeesport is expanding its vacant property recovery program to include parcels with structures.

Council on Wednesday unanimously approved the transfer of 10 properties to the Redevelopment Authority of the City of McKeesport through eminent domain. Parcels include empty lots and those with houses on them: 2718 Grandview Ave.; 621 Versailles Ave.; 1106 Ohio St.; 2105 Harrison St.; 2701 Riverview Ave.; 415, 417, 421 and 423 Twenty-Seventh Ave.; and 281 Rockwood St.

“This is another way to tackle the blight problem we have in the city,” Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “This process has typically been used to acquire vacant land adjacent to other properties. We’re now opening it to properties with structures on them when the purchaser has a plan.”

Read more: http://triblive.com/neighborhoods/yourmckeesport/yourmckeesportmore/6882351-74/properties-vacant-ave#ixzz3F0tJF2yD
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Allentown Developer Announces New Project, Possible Rooftop Restaurant

English: City of Allentown from east side

English: City of Allentown from east side (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The developer already behind $500 million of development in downtown Allentown has something new up his sleeve.

J.B. Reilly announced plans Wednesday to renovate a blighted vacant building at Eighth and Linden streets, turning the ground level floor into 4,000-square-feet of retail space.

The upper floors of the three-story building will become either apartments or office space, and a rooftop restaurant could be established there as well, Reilly said.

“We think this is a really important project because it’s sort of the gateway into the residential neighborhood,” said Reilly, president of

City Center Lehigh Valley. “We think it’ll have a pretty big impact on the neighborhood outside the NIZ.”

Read more: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2014/10/allentown_developer_announces.html

Steps Taken To Address Building Blight, But Lancaster May Still Move To Take Problem Property

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

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

Annville developer Kenneth Wenger has paid back taxes, ensured the grounds of the former G.E. Richards building are clean and the grass cut.

He has resolved nearly all the issues that led city inspectors to declare the 502-506 W. Walnut St. property blighted.

But that didn’t stop city Redevelopment Authority board members on Tuesday from voting to begin the process of taking the property by eminent domain.

In April, the board gave Wenger until Sept. 30 to address blighted conditions. The taking could occur in as little as 90 days unless Wenger takes action.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/steps-taken-to-address-building-blight-but-city-may-still/article_479f45ec-3e09-11e4-bf1e-0017a43b2370.html

Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

York’s Northeast Neighborhood Residents Wonder What Impact Think Loud Will Have On Their Community

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

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

On a wooden table in Gregg Hardy’s kitchen are a handful of cherry tomatoes.

They come from the garden behind his East Walnut Street home that his wife tends, caring for fish in a small pond and cultivating an orange tree, where a single unripe fruit hung one day in August.

While she will spend a day coaxing flowers to grow, Hardy focuses his own labor on the interior — putting in bathrooms, widening door frames and shaping cabinets.

He bought his home for $15,000 in 2003, property records show. He said he put $20 down on it, and spent several years driving down from New York on weekends to fix it up. He is now entrenched in a neighborhood he believes has remade itself into an area families can call home.

Read more: http://www.ydr.com/local/ci_26386670/yorks-northeast-neighborhood-residents-wonder-what-impact-think