Artists Bring Slow, Neighborly Approach to Tackling Blight

Artists in Baltimore (Oct 24)

Tensions may still simmer where neighborhood revitalization and artists and the arts intersect, but when it comes to blight, block by block, creativity is often a good business proposition. Artists as a proven driver of property values were on display in a conversation between two very different ventures at a recent conference in Baltimore. The first of those organizations didn’t start out devoted to the arts, but to Orange, New Jersey. Housing and Neighborhood Development Services, known as Hands, has been rehabilitating and redeveloping properties in Orange since 1986. In the two decades prior, Orange had first been gutted by an interstate project and then bled dry by the closure of the Rheingold brewery, which led to the loss of 700 jobs. One in 10 houses was vacant, over 400 overall. Read more here!

Must See: Art Project Brings New Life Into Blighted Buildings


breathing lights project

Breathing Lights, the name of the project, is the brainchild of artist Adam Frelin and architect Barb Nelson. Both were awarded with a $1 million grant to generate public art to address local issues. Smithsonian says that the “light” part of the project’s name is simple to understand – hundreds of buildings in the three cities will lit up from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thus, the “breathing” part is just as relevant.

“Warm light will fill each window with a diffuse glow that mimics the gentle rhythm of human breathing,” the artists posted on their website. This is used to describe what is lost when buildings become vacant and the cities’ ability to breathe new life back into abandoned urban areas. Read more here!

Zombie Wars: State law aims to reduce blighted properties

Ohio vacant properties

A new state law is being viewed as a national model for eliminating zombies. Zombie properties, that is. A law taking effect Wednesday will speed up the process for foreclosing on vacant and abandoned properties – homes and other structures given their nickname for being left to languish like the living dead. The legislative solution, which was three years in the making, cleared the state Senate and House and was signed by Republican Gov. John Kasich in June. It establishes a fast-track system that trims the foreclosure process from two years or more to as little as six months.

Backers say the speedier foreclosure procedure, tucked into a bill exempting certain natural gas sales from the state sales tax, also protects property owners’ rights by requiring at least three of 11 listed factors to be present before foreclosure can begin. Read more here!

Clarksburg Council Awards Bid for City Demolition Project

Clarksburg City Council

A motion made during Thursday’s Clarksburg City Council meeting to award a project bid to Reclaim Co. of Fairmont will help rid the city of blighted properties. Six structures will be razed in the demolition and asbestos abatement project, all located within the city’s tax increment financing (TIF) district. The city received three bids for the project, which were opened Tuesday, and Reclaim Co. submitted the lowest bid at $89,998.

“This demolition property will continue our goal to eliminate a lot of the slum and blight,” City Manager Martin Howe said. “All of these structures that will be taken down, a majority of them have entered into agreements with the property owners to have them razed. For the overall improvement of the city, it’s a great program to continue.” Read more here!

County Focuses on Blighted Columbia Properties

Fluvanna Picture for Website

To the casual observer driving through Fluvanna’s historic yet shabby little river community of Columbia, it may not appear that much is being done to improve conditions there. Fluvanna County Administrator Steve Nichols says just the opposite is true; progress is being made – it just can’t see be seen yet “We are just in the preliminary phases of the process,” Nichols said, referring to the county’s plans to use grant money from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to purchase blighted properties in the flood zone and tear them down. The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC) has worked with the county to obtain the grant and is assisting with the administration of it. Read more here.

Inspiration: South Side youth transform blighted building with inspirational artwork in Milwaukee.

Southside Youth- Website Photo

Fifteen-year-old Daniela Dominguez, a sophomore at Carmen High School of Science and Technology’s South Campus, set a goal this year to help her community. So she joined the Safe and Sound Youth Council at her school, located at 1712 S. 32nd St.. The members first set their sights on a foreclosed nuisance property at 1931 S. 6th St., which had become a magnet for crime. They chose to utilize art to transform the long-neglected duplex into a neighborhood symbol of hope.

“We took something that looked really bad and attracted drug dealing and crime, and turned it into a positive message for the community,” Dominguez said. Read more here.

Webinar: Leveraging Resources for Brownfields Revitalization


The first in a webinar series exploring what communities need to know to successfully leverage their available resources to successfully meet their brownfields revitalization challenges. This webinar will discuss available tools and focus on Dubuque, Iowa’s successful efforts to leverage its own resources to attract other federal, state, public, and private sources of funding and technical assistance.

Click here for the full story!

Zombie Homes Eat Millions in Property Values


Zombie properties along with bank and federally-owned foreclosed homes may have decreased property values by as much as $11 million in Monroe County and the city of Rochester, New York according to a new report released by the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference.

Poorly maintained zombie homes “are having a real impact on people who have had nothing to do with the foreclosure crisis,” said Klein. “These people are still being affected by these dilapidated properties.” Click here for the full story.

To Tackle Blight, Kansas City Will Crunch The Numbers


Tackling blight is expensive. Kansas City, Kansas, is betting that data can reverse decades of urban decay. The Unified Government hopes to address decades of neglect with money from Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative. The idea is to connect smaller municipalities with data tools that can help them govern better. The advantage to partnering with Bloomberg is Kansas City, Kansas, won’t have to develop its own infrastructure to fight the problem. It can borrow from what partner cities have learned. Click here for the full story.