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Details shared on Northside grant project

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A proposed neighborhood revitalization project in north Martinsville would include improvements to all 44 homes there, according to a city official.

The homes would become “much improved aesthetically and structurally,” said Assistant City Manager Wayne Knox.

At 7:30 tonight, Martinsville City Council will consider approving a resolution to apply to the state for a $910,685 Community Development Block Grant to rejuvenate Franklin, Dillard and Ruffin streets and Warren Court.

The city would provide $233,000 of its own funds, which would bring the project’s total cost to $1,143,685, the resolution shows.

Northside is the only part of Martinsville with a neighborhood that qualifies for a block grant but has not yet undergone any revitalization, officials have said. The area targeted is near Liberty Fair Mall and Commonwealth Centre, the former Tultex factory that already has been redeveloped.

Block grant funds would be used to upgrade all but one home in the area, said Knox, who doubles as the city’s director of community development.

The other dwelling’s owner would pay for improvements to his structure to coincide with the other neighborhood improvements, Knox said.

The owner thinks “he could have it (the work) done himself ... cheaper” than the city could have it done, Knox continued.

That is fine with Knox — what matters, he indicated, is that the work get done to make the neighborhood nicer.

Depending on needs of specific homes, improvements could include window replacement, weatherization, electrical and plumbing system repairs, painting, and repairs to damaged walls and ceilings, Knox said.

Of the 44 homes that would undergo improvements, 12 are vacant, 10 are owner-occupied and 22 are rental properties, he said.

All of the structures are single-family dwellings except for one duplex, he added.

The city aims to buy five vacant homes and, depending on how much work they need, either rehab or replace them, then sell them at market value to offer home ownership opportunities to low- to moderate-income families.

Knox said those homes are in the 100 block of Warren Court and the 500 block of Dillard Street.

Along with housing improvements, the city plans to resurface the streets, make driveway improvements at houses along Dillard and Franklin and install storm drains, pipes, curbs and gutters along Franklin, the resolution shows.

Those improvements are “long past due” in the neighborhood, Knox said.

Money that the city would allocate for the project is to be used toward the street improvements, the resolution shows.

A public hearing about the proposed block grant project is set for tonight’s council meeting, to be held at the municipal building on West Church Street.

If the council approves the resolution, city officials will submit the block grant application to the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development on Wednesday, which is the deadline, officials have said.

Block grants are federally funded but administered by the state.

Knox said the state will announce in June which localities will receive grants. Construction would start between October and December if all contracts related to the project could be signed by then, he said.

If the grant is approved, between June and when the work gets underway, there will be “a lot of one-on-one (conversations) and neighborhood meetings” with property owners to keep them informed about what to expect, Knox said.

Street improvements could begin in July, after the city’s new budget year starts, he added.

All of the improvements are expected to be completed within 30 months after the project begins, Knox said.

If that happens, he said, the neighborhood will “look 100 percent better ... fresh, new and clean,” and the homes will be more structurally sound.

 

 
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