The Revitalization of the Hill

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

We all know that for any neighborhood to succeed as a healthy place, neighbors must be engaged in managing the day-to-day issues that confront them on their block and in their neighborhood. And the investment of neighbors in these kinds of day-to-day activities will be greater if they have a stake in the outcome of the improvement of the neighborhood as a whole. It is with that in mind that Lackawanna Neighbors started ?The Revitalization of the Hill? project.The Scranton Hill section, once a proud reminder of the beauty of Scranton, had become a run-down neighborhood known more for its crime than for the grand, stately homes that makeup the bulk of the neighborhood.What once was a place for the affluent and the community-minded had become a hovel for low income housing and all the baggage that comes with a community of that nature.The transformation from a safe, respected community to a place which most Scrantonians avoided at all costs was not at all abrupt, but rather was the result of decades of varying social and economic decline.The Revitalization of the Hill seeks not only to remedy this decline, but also to transform the neighborhood as a whole into a place that is desirable to live. The approach, of course, is not an easy one, and it starts with the very people that make up the neighborhood.

Hill Before and After 1

Lackawanna Neighbors knew that if we wanted to fix the Hill we had to start at the most basic level of the community, the people. In order to fix the neighborhood, we were going to have get the help of the very people that made up the neighborhood. And if we wanted their help, we had to give them a reason to offer it. No one is willing to work unless they have a goal to reach. How would Lackawanna Neighbors help them, help the community?Well, we started by fixing up the buildings they lived in, the streets they walked on and the yards their children played in. We worked to make the neighborhood a safer place to live and by that, offered them something they could understand – peace of mind. Through the physical remodeling of their environment we were able to remodel their outlook on their community.We purchased old, run down houses and renovated them. We added streetlights, cleared out refuse and landscaped yards to create a more open and friendly atmosphere. We even took down fences and, when we had to, took down houses. And, it worked.

Hill Before and After 2

As people saw the neighborhood healing, their feelings toward the town they lived in changed. Now they had a reason to help, a reason to work and best of all, a reason to stay. But our commitment didn’t end there; we aren’t finished yet.The Scranton Hill is still in need of continued renovation and the battle is only half won. There are still homes to be fixed, streets to be cleaned and opinions to be changed. And now we need your help.

Carbondale Revitalization Project

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Lackawanna Neighbors is happy to have the opportunity to undertake a Revitalization Project in the City of Carbondale. Drawing on our expertise and success in the revitalization of the City of Scranton’s Hill Neighborhood, Lackawanna Neighbors has joined forces with the City of Carbondale and the Greater Carbondale Community Development Corporation to plan, administer and manage the neighborhood revitalization project. As a state and locally designated Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO), Lackawanna Neighbors will undertake the project from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s State HOME funds grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development. The grant funds will be used primarily to purchase and rehabilitate five to seven homes within targeted areas of Carbondale, focusing on single family, vacant properties that are in need of repair. The grant will also be used to market the completely renovated homes to individuals and families that meet the current state and federal income guidelines according to family size. Lackawanna Neighbors’ philosophy is to rehabilitate the homes to a higher than normal standard with new roofs, siding or exterior painting as needed, new windows, new heating systems, plumbing and electrical, kitchens, bathrooms, carpeting or refinishing of floors, etc. thus making the home like new and allowing the new owner to build equity in their “new” home without the fear or cost of major renovations or repairs for many years to come.

We at Lackawanna Neighbors have come to realize that healthy homes make healthy neighborhoods where it makes economic sense for people to invest their time, money and energy, and, a place where neighbors manage change successfully. Our revitalization strategies go beyond housing development activities and take into consideration a wide range of social and economic factors that are inter-related and integrated into each revitalization activity that will incentivize not only a community’s citizens and residents of its neighborhoods, but also the business community which prospers when their community prospers.

The following is an article that appeared in the Carbondale News on Wednesday, March 26, 2003.

“Providing further credence that there is strength in numbers, a cooperative partnership has been formed between local, public and private organizations to plan, administer and manage the neighborhood revitalization project in the City of Carbondale. Supporting this asset of strength is the extra ingredient of collective unity – a synergy of neighborhood, community and economic development activities working toward a common goal – creating and sustaining a better Carbondale for all.

The City of Carbondale, Lackawanna Neighbors, Inc., the Greater Carbondale Community Development Corporation, Neighborhood Housing Services of Scranton and the Carbondale Community Justice Council have entered into a cooperative agareement. This collaboration of public and private organizations will work toward improving the quality of life in the City of Carbondale by revitalizing existing housing stock, improving the stability and executing crime prevention strategies throughout targeted neighborhoods. A state grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development for $548,000 will be used primarily to purchase, rehabilitate and sell five to seven homes in targeted neighborhoods, focusing on vacant properties. Keith Tucker, Executive Director of Lackawanna Neighbors, Inc. adds, “The project will restore abandoned, deteriorating houmes into decent, owner-occupied housing for people of moderate means. Historically, programs like this have proven that personal accomplishment, pride and responsibility associated with home ownership extends throughout each selected neighborhood – it’s a domino effect of positive community progression and development.”

Lackawanna Neighbors, Inc. (LNI) organized in 1968, is a local non-profit housing development organization that revitalizes homes and residential neighborhoods. Under the partnership agreement, Lackawanna Neighbors will manage and administer the grant funds while assisting in identifying potential locations for inspection, acquisition and rehabilitation. Project consultant, David Cramer of Cramer Crystal, will provide assistance, guidance and direction.

The Greater Carbondale Community Development Corporation will work with Lackawanna Neighbors in identifying and selecting project locations while managing other revenue and cost associated elements of the program. Carbondale’s Community Development Corporation will be the entity to give final approval before any offer is made to purchase a property.

“The City of Carbondale’s revitalization program and cooperative agreement is a perfect example of how a collection of public and private organizations can collaborate and harness their distict resources into a single project. We are committed to turning eyesores into nice homes,” comments Nancy Perri, Director of the Office of Economic and Community Development.

What does revitalization mean to the City of Carbondale? “Requisite economic and community development,” says Cindy Klenk, president of Carbondale Chamber of Commmerce and member of the C.D.C. Project Committee.
“The revitalization project will allow the Chamber to promote the City of Carbondale in an increasingly progressive and esthetically pleasing limelight. Individuals, families and businesses evaluate these criteria when considering relocation options,” concluded Cindy.

Carbondale’s Community Justice Council will offer their resources and services dealing with legal/code issues on potential sites. “The Council is made up of a variety of representatives from local businesses, hospitals, crime watch groups, and other organizations. Our primary objective is improving the quality of life in Carbondale,” says Michele Bannon, city clerk.

A value-added service paralleling the projects development will be homebuyer counseling and education classes. Neighborhood Housing Services (NHS)is a nonprofit organization that focues on revitalizing communities in Lackawanna County and offering services and training that customers need to shop for, puchase, rehabilitate, insure and maintain a home. They are part of a national program, Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, that has successfully sold over 60,000 homes in the past ten years.

Kathleen Little, Executive Director of NHS, says, “We are thrilled to offer monthly workshops in Carbondale. There are so many housing opportunities within the city, with programs available to assist families with down payments and closing costs. Many families can own a home for about the same amount they pay for rental units.”

The workshops teach potential homebuyers how to become successful homeowners. The 6-hour “FastTrack” workshops will assess participant’s readiness to buy a home, assist them with budgeting and credit issues, give them options for financing a home, help them to select a home, and most importantly, provide them with the critical knowledge for maintaining their new home. The course is tailored to meet the participants’ needs, no matter what phase of home buying process they are in. Classes are scheduled the first two Tuesdays of each month.

“Carbondale’s neighborhood revitalization project is a win-win situtation for all involved. The new homeowner wins because he/she has achieved the American dream, becoming a homeowner. The City of Carbondale wins because where once was a neglected, run-down or long-time vacant structure, and in many instances a conduit for crime and drug trafficking, today exists a new or rehabilitated home, an additional new tax revenue stream and a healthier neighborhood. Lackawanna Neighbors and all participating organizations win because the projects accomplishments are economically, financially and emotionally tangible,” concludes Tucker of LNI.

Anyone interested in learning more about the project and associated services offered can contact Lackawanna Neighbors at 570.963.7616 or; Neighborhood Housing Services of Scranton at 570.558.2490; Carbondale Chamber of Commerce at 570.282.1690; City of Carbondale O.E.C.D. at 570.282.2882; or Carbondale Community Justice Council at 570.282.4633.”