Thursday, March 19, 2009

Knox Hill Neighborhood Association: Save not Raze Project

The Knox Hill Neighborhood Association is working on new project that they feel may be the first of its kind in the city and hope to get "buy in" from both the city council and department of building and inspection.

This new project is called "Save not Raze" and the goal of this project is to identify "at risk" residential properties in the neighborhood and find resources to save them.

Right now we have 20 properties that are on the city VBML list, half of those have condemn orders against them. It is the association's opinion that many of these homes can now be saved.

"It's a question of economics in many instances. A couple of years ago this neighborhood had little if any value. New residents have moved in and begun restoration efforts we now have 1.2 Million dollars of private investment occurring in this neighborhood over the next two years" according to Greg Drake, who is on the planning committee of KHNA, " many of those properties didn't make economic sense then to fix, now they do."

The neighborhood is preparing a database of properties on VBML list and is working on a "rating" for each of those houses. Those houses will be rated as 1.) Restorable 2) Viable 3)Loss.

Restorable: Homes are homes actually need little to be in compliance, homes that perhaps only need a new owner with some money to invest or a situation where the current owner maybe just needs some help. The neighborhood group hopes to act as a clearing house on resources to owners to get help to fix their properties. In situations where the owner is making a "good faith" effort, we plan to help them file for a waiver of the VBML fees.

Viable: Homes that need substantial work to be in compliance. If the owner simply can't afford the house and its likely that it will be headed to foreclosure OR the property owner owns it outright the group plans on setting up a special Endangered Properties page on its website where owners can place their properties for sale. Local Realtors with properties in the area are also encouraged to place their listings on the neighborhood's "Historic properties for sale page".
Loss: Homes that are 'too far gone' to be saved. In this instance the group will approach the current property owner and see if the owner is willing to donate salvage rights to the group. Volunteers will then come in and salvage items like doors, tubs, mantles, trim and staircase parts that could be recycled for other homes in the neighborhood being restored. These would be made available at nominal cost for members and slightly greater cost for non members who are restoring homes in other parts of town. Proceeds from the sale will be put in a a fund for neighborhood improvement projects. Once the home is ready for demo the group hopes the city can "fast track" those demolitions.

The group is also preparing a database of buildable lots and hopes to match lot owners with developers to build new market rate iinfill homes. The group hopes to acquire some lots for thumbnail parks.
There are also homes in the area that aren't on the VBML list but should be and the group is preparing a list of homes that should be brought into compliance to city building services. We hope to take city inspectors on a 'walking tour' of the area and show them the homes we feel need to be on this list.

Another part of the project is the "Adopt a House" program. The group hopes to attract business groups and community organizations like church groups, boy scouts, rotary groups, VFW or business associations to volunteer a weekend to adopt a house. Many low income and elderly residents do not have the resources too maintain their homes but are vital to the strength of the community. Teams of volunteers will come in clean up the yard, plant flowers and perhaps do some painting. The "Adopt a House" project will also work with the neighborhoods new "Community Picket Project" which will replace chain link fences with picket fences built by group members from donated pallets and installed by the adopt a house volunteers. This is a great opportunity for anyone to donate a few hours of their time and "give back" to the community. If you want to form a team ( usually 5-10 people) contact victiques@hotmail.

The group is also stepping up crime watch and improve safety in the community. We are asking the city to step up enforcement of the pit bull ordinance and get these dangerous dogs out of the neighborhood. We want the city police to take a more aggressive approach with the drug dealing at Harrison and Thompson. We also want the city to take a hard line on abandoned vehicles and illegal dumping. Since KHNA was formed two known drug dealers have moved from the neighborhood due to increased scrutiny by neighbors.

The group also wants to aggressively pursue slumlords and out of state real estate investment groups who buy foreclosures with plans to just "let them sit" until the market improves. The group is searching ownership records to identify these owner and keep them in a database for monitoring. The group plans to put those investors on notice that they must maintain their homes or the group will bring the forces of every city agency against them.

KHNA is "taking back" it's neighborhood from the slumlords and drug dealers who have been here far too long. With some 'buy in" from the city on enforcement the group hopes to turn the corner this summer on the neighborhood's revitalization. the group is putting the finishing touches on the project proposal and hopes to start rolling it out to city council members and city planning for review.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This story from today's Enquirer pretty much sums up how poor the city's vision is when it comes to preserving its most important assets.