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June 16, 2013

Almost $1 million netted from New Albany Midtown project

Administration considers present, future of neighborhood

NEW ALBANY — Sales from the initial phase of the Neighborhood Stabilization Project  yielded about $954,000 for continued improvements to housing stock in New Albany.

Purchases are pending or have been completed on 23 of the 32 houses that were built or reconstructed through the $6.7 million federal program, and three of the properties remain in the construction phase.

One of the properties was turned into a community garden, and another, the Cardinal Ritter Birthplace, was transformed into a public facility.

The remaining houses are on the market as the city attempts to fill them ahead of an extended 2014 deadline.

Once they are sold, the proceeds will be added to the pot and the money used to improve more properties in the Midtown neighborhood.

“We still have to have some evaluations as to how we’re going to use those revenues,” Mayor Jeff Gahan said.

MIDTOWN THEN AND NOW

Mayor Doug England’s administration garnered the grant in 2009, and the nonprofit New Directions Housing Corp. was hired to implement the project.

About $857,000 of the federal award was used to purchase abandoned and foreclosed homes and properties  in the S. Ellen Jones neighborhood as well as a portion of the surrounding area.

The goal was to turn the blighted properties into viable homes to be sold to low-to-moderate income buyers.

The area was dubbed Midtown, and officials said the project has extended beyond the houses that were refurbished through the grant.

Lisa Thompson, chief operating officer for New Directions, said a recent survey identified 70 “obviously vacant properties” in the Midtown neighborhood.

Eighteen months prior to that survey, Thompson said there were 113 vacant sites in the area.

“In April this year, 10 homes were undergoing extensive and obvious professional redevelopment” that weren’t associated with the NSP project, Thompson said.

The makeovers of the targeted NSP homes has influenced other property owners and developers to invest in Midtown, said David Duggins, director of redevelopment and economic development for New Albany. “To me that tells me we’re having an effect — an amoeba-like effect on the surrounding homes,” Duggins said.

East Elm Street, Eighth Street and Culbertson Avenue are among the streets that are having “dramatic turnarounds” due to the NSP project, Thompson said.

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