FOLLANSBEE — The former Follansbee Steel location has been shuttered for four years, but it’s about to get a whole new look.
The Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle closed on the property for more than $1.3 million Thursday and have awarded a contract for the brownfield remediation assessment to Civil Environment Consultants of Export, Pa., according to BDC Executive Director Pat Ford.
Ford said the West Virginia Economic Development Authority granted a $1.3 million loan for the purchase and the Northern West Virginia Brownfield Assistance Center awarded a $12,500 grant for a boundary survey and Phase 1 environmental assessment required for the loan. Read more here!
It will soon become harder for landlords to neglect vacant or blighted properties under a bill the D.C. Council unanimously passed today.
The measure—first introduced by At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman and co-sponsored by nine of her colleagues in December—seeks to maintain such buildings at higher property tax rates (5 and 10 percent more than standard for those determined to be vacant and blighted, respectively) until owners affirmatively prove to the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs that they’ve abated issues. Current law requires that DCRA verify that buildings are vacant or blighted every six months, even when an owner has not indicated that they’ve made improvements. This has led to inconsistent enforcement of property laws and consumed inspectors’ time. Read more here!
WHEELING — Rep. David B. McKinley said Wednesday he’ll work with West Virginia’s next governor to push for expanded historic rehabilitation tax credits, while pressing Congress to follow suit. McKinley, R-W.Va., said these credits incentivize private development, and they advocate for the restoration of dormant downtown districts…He cited several local properties revived because of tax credits, and said these buildings now contribute to the revitalization of Wheeling. “How a community treats its downtown is a manifestation of how it thinks about economic development,” McKinley said. “It hurts me every time I see another building come down because I know they could be restored.” Read more here!
“This is our first year showcasing children’s art,” said Alicia Gallo, community outreach coordinator for Richmond Main Street. “The community suggested we put children’s art in the windows, and we love the energy.”
The exhibition was the product of a partnership between Richmond Main Street’s annual Art In Windows program and the Love Your Block program. Art In Windows, funded by the Richmond Main Street Initiative and supported in kind by the Richmond Arts and Culture Commission, aims to beautify downtown Richmond by turning empty storefront windows into gallery space for two exhibits each year. Love Your Block, a neighborhood revitalization program, gives grants to citizens who want to improve Richmond neighborhoods through community-led projects. Read more here!
In some Pennsylvania cities, it seems like “pop-ups,” where vacant land is temporarily converted into community space, are around every corner. In Pittsburgh, you can play life-size chess and mega Jenga in an unused office park, or sit in a tiny dumpster park. A lot underneath Philadelphia’s abandoned Reading Viaduct has found new life as a summer beer garden. You’d be hard pressed to find a city in the commonwealth that hasn’t experimented with at least pocket parks, large enough for one or two passerby. The short-term, low-cost aspect of these parks allows cities to give different groups a space to try out their ideas without much risk. Read more here!
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!
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!
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!
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!