Just before Christmas, the City of Thomas crossed another BAD Building off of their inventory. The “Eagle’s Nest” building on Spruce Street was demolished thanks to the collaboration of the private property owner, Woodlands Development Group, and the WVDEP.
PHOTO – A dilapidated home within the city of Fairmont
In Fairmont, over 300 buildings sit vacant, abandoned or dilapidated.
Some have sat for years in disrepair after their owners died or moved away. Others are owned by heirs who live out of state, and simply forgot about them.
But the residents who live next to them and the city government which has authority over them haven’t forgot.
“As people moved out, who was there to maintain their properties?” City Manager Robin Gomez said. “For many of them, nobody did.”
In the five-and-a-half decades since Jane Jacobs published “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” her core contention — that urban vitality and safety are a function of small-scale density, a mixture of uses and “eyes on the street” — has become conventional wisdom in urban theory. But the impact that that notion has enjoyed can be attributed, in large part, to the poetic force of Jacobs’ delivery: The idea that an active “sidewalk ballet” makes neighborhoods safe as well as vibrant seems to jibe with daily experience. Can data bear it out?
According to a new study, maybe.
Effective October 31, any one or two-family home that was built in 1916 or earlier or is a designated historic resource cannot be demolished by the typical bulldozer process, but must be manually deconstructed and salvaged.
In response to the demolition epidemic sweeping across Portland, the City convened a Deconstruction Advisory Group (DAG) to recommend a new policy for managed deconstruction. The goal was to create an incentive to reuse materials from historic homes and reduce the environmental impact of the tons of waste entering the landfill. Restore Oregon participated in DAG and played a leading role in the development of the new deconstruction policy. 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!
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.