On Ridge Avenue Progress Would Go By The Initials PHA

Editor’s note:  This could be a game changer if it can be pulled off.  Hoping it is a success.

From Bruce Webb’s chair, pulled to the entryway of his record and cassette store on Ridge Avenue, the decay is inescapable. Across the street, a faded sign for Irv’s Meat Market & Delicatessen boasts, “Home of the Giant Hoagie.” Next door, Ahn’s Fresh Fish & Produce is for sale.

Both stores are vacant, and have been for years.

One recent day, Webb saw two younger men photographing the crumbled Irv’s storefront. Speculators, Webb dubbed them.

“It’s just a matter of time,” Webb, 81, said. “Change is coming.”

The source of that proposed change to a once-vibrant business corridor that stretched from Girard College to Cecil B. Moore Avenue is an unlikely one: the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20150603_On_Ridge_Avenue_progress_would_go_by_the_initials_PHA.html#GVbsus8XvyomgfYd.99

Pottsville Residents Complain About Demolition Waste In Alley

When residents complained Tuesday about more than a ton of concrete refuse, which a city contractor dumped at the far end of a Pottsville alley more than a year ago, officials promised action.

“A contractor dumped those there about a year and a half ago. There’s a wall here that borders my yard. And the weight of those, with the snow and the rain, is pushing that wall toward my yard,” Sue Rich, 422 Harrison St., Pottsville, said.

Mark Santai, 426 Harrison St., and Betty Guy, 432 Harrison St., also complained about the load of concrete dropped behind their properties.

“We already talked to that contractor and he said he was going to come out and move that stuff. We’ll contact him again and if he doesn’t get to it in a couple of days, we might have to issue a citation,” Justin D. Trefsger, the city’s code enforcement officer, said Monday.

On Tuesday, City Administrator Thomas A. Palamar identified that contractor as Penn Earthworks, Hazleton.

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Lancaster City Seeks Proposals For Bulova Building, Adjacent City Property

Lancaster city is formally seeking proposals for the vacant Bulova building and adjacent city-owned property in hopes of connecting a stagnant part of downtown.

The city intends to use eminent domain to take the Bulova building at North Queen and East Orange streets. That means the city would pay fair market value for the property and the building’s lien holders would then be paid.

The city issued requests for proposals on Friday.

Randy Patterson, the city’s economic development and neighborhood revitalization director, said the property is in a critical location downtown.

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Hazelwood: Almono Gives Neighborhood A Shot At Recovery

Salvation sits just across the railroad tracks from Alex Bodnar’s Hungarian restaurant on Second Avenue in Hazelwood.

It doesn’t look like much now, just acres and acres of vacant land, graded but idle. But the redevelopment potential of the 178-acre site has raised the hopes of the struggling city neighborhood.

“The good Lord is answering my prayer,” Mr. Bodnar beamed as he stood in the kitchen of his restaurant preparing a bowl of goulash.

For much of the last century, the Monongahela riverfront site has been closely tied to the neighborhood’s fortunes. For decades, the massive coke works that dominated the land brought prosperity. Jobs were plentiful and Second Avenue teemed with grocery stores, shops and restaurants.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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Harmony and Unity in Pottstown…


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