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June 3, 2014

Charlestown neighborhood to get facelift; some residents vow to fight plan

Hall has big plans for Pleasant Ridge subdivision

CHARLESTOWN — One the most dilapidated areas of Charlestown will be transformed through a major revitalization effort to take place in the coming years — but some residents are vowing to fight the project.

During a city council meeting Monday, Charlestown Mayor Bob Hall announced plans to redevelop the Pleasant Ridge subdivision near Jonathan Jennings Elementary School. The plan will require all current residents to relocate or take residence in another home in the redeveloped area.

“We have to move Charlestown forward,” Hall said of the project, adding it is too soon to say exactly what Pleasant Ridge will be become.

Hall said he expects to eventually have a “full development with mixed-use housing” that would including small businesses, restaurants, affordable housing specifically designed for seniors, duplexes and single-family townhouses.

He estimated the neighborhood now has approximately 350 structures, including multi-family homes. Hall said the neighborhood was designated as blighted property in 2002, and grant funding recently made available from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority has escalated plans to renovate the area.

Hall said the IHCDA is offering up to $25,000 for the acquisition process for some of the homes. For structures that receive the full $25,000 in grant funding, $10,000 will be allotted to the sale price and the remaining $15,000 would go toward demolition, maintenance and administration costs.

The IHCDA grant funds are not expected to cover the homes’ full sale prices, but Hall wants to use the grant to help either the city or private businesses complete the purchases. Hall stressed that he wants to take steps to make sure all the property owners who will be relinquishing their homes or rental properties are treated fairly.

“I think it will be widely accepted,” Hall said, adding that he has heard from many residents about their desire to redevelop the Pleasant Ridge subdivision.

While most Charlestown City Council meetings are sparsely attended, Monday’s meeting drew a large crowd and required additional chairs be brought into the meeting room. And some of those in attendance were vocal of their dissatisfaction of having to leave their homes.

The most vocal were those who own homes in the subdivision, not those who own the rental properties.

Judy Hogan said her family has owned a home on Arlington Avenue in Pleasant Ridge for more than 40 years.

“There are 65 families, and that’s just the ones I know about there, and most of them are elderly and have had their houses paid for for years,” Hogan said. “Where are they going to go and find another house for what they are going to get paid for them?”

Josh Craven, 31, has owned a home in the subdivision on Guilford Road for nearly six years and said he understands the city’s desire to improve the area, but doesn’t think all the homes should be included in the redevelopment.

“They should be more selective, instead of wiping it all down and making it some glorified community building,” Craven said. “They don’t need to tear it down, they need to tear down the houses that really need to be torn down.”

Craven said he is also concerned with the relocation of some of those who rent homes in the area.

“What they [city officials] don’t understand is all those low-income people that they say are the crime people that are causing the problem, where are they going to go? They are going to be up here in Charlestown in another community ruining it,” he said.

Craven said he will make plans to organize residents and form a petition to fight the city’s plans to redevelop the entire subdivision.

“They are not taking our property. I am proud to live up there,” he said. “I have lived up there my whole life.”

Hall said he believes some of those who own homes in Pleasant Ridge will be able to own homes in the same area after the redevelopment.

He said others are expected to relocate to other parts of Charlestown and others still will likely move from the city altogether.

Hall said the plans are still in their infancy, and there are many unknowns to overcome before getting the redevelopment underway.

“We are working on a wide range of options, but haven’t had too long to put it together, so I don’t want to say what will happen because we haven’t signed anything yet to make anything happen,” he said.

Hall said the redevelopment is needed at Pleasant Ridge as much of the housing is substandard, nearly 50 percent of the calls made by the Charlestown Police Department are to the area and many of the city’s utility problems are isolated to the subdivision.


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