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City gets $935K block grant
For improvements to Northside neighborhood
The Northside neighborhood in Martinsville will get a facelift, thanks to a $934,904 Community Development Block Grant. The area to be rejuvenated is near Liberty Fair Mall and Commonwealth Centre, the former Tultex factory that already has been redeveloped. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Friday, June 27, 2014
By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Martinsville will receive a Community Development Block Grant of $934,904 to revitalize a neighborhood on the city’s north side.
The grant, announced Thursday by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, will be used to make improvements to Franklin, Dillard and Ruffin streets and Warren Court, as well as 44 residential structures on those streets.
Assistant City Manager/Community Development Director Wayne Knox said the project has “been a long time coming.”
Northside is the only part of Martinsville with a neighborhood that qualifies for a block grant but has not yet undergone any revitalization, Knox said.
The area to be rejuvenated is near Liberty Fair Mall and Commonwealth Centre, the former Tultex factory that has been privately redeveloped into offices.
Northside is “a small, compact and unassuming” area that many motorists may not notice as they drive nearby, Knox said, but “a lot of living goes on” there.
It took city officials several years to develop the project, largely because it was hard to reach owners of rental houses who live elsewhere, he said.
But “once they knew we were serious” about doing a revitalization project, they wanted to participate, he said.
Block grants are federally funded but dispensed by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development.
The city will provide $233,000 toward the revitalization, which will bring the project’s total cost to $1,167,904.
Of the 44 homes that will undergo improvements, 12 are vacant, 10 are owner-occupied and 22 are rental properties, Knox said.
All of the structures are single-family homes except for one duplex, he said.
Block grant funds will be used to upgrade all but one home. The owner of the other home decided to pay for improvements to it to coincide with the other neighborhood improvements, according to Knox.
The city plans to buy five vacant homes and, depending on how much work they need, either refurbish or rebuild them and then sell them at market value to provide home ownership opportunities to low- to moderate-income families.
Those homes are in the 100 block of Warren and the 500 block of Dillard, according to Knox.
The city will repave the streets, improve driveways at houses on Dillard and Franklin and install storm drains, pipes, curbs and gutters on Franklin, he said.
Money that the city is contributing to the project will cover the cost of the street improvements, he added.
Knox said he expects it will be around October before all construction contracts can be signed and the project can get started.
Once it begins, it will take 30 to 36 months to complete, he said.
Martinsville’s block grant of $934,904 was one of 13 totaling more than $8.5 million awarded for projects statewide. It is the second largest grant behind Wise County, which will receive $1 million toward a sewer project, according to a release from the state.
The towns of South Hill, Appalachia, Crewe, Clifton Forge, Colonial Beach, Troutdale and Cleveland, as well as the counties of Buchanan, Greensville, Mecklenburg and Grayson, are getting lesser grants, the release stated.
Martinsville is the only independent city to receive a grant.
Virginia receives about $17 million annually to put toward block grants, for which localities must compete. Grants are awarded based on projects’ merits as determined by state officials.
The state fully funded Martinsville’s request.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Knox said, that the state has fully funded many of the city’s block grant projects over the years.
Still, he was “pleasantly surprised” that the Northside project is being fully funded, he said, because block grant funding is limited and many localities request it.
Most projects funded are ones benefiting low- and moderate-income people, and many projects are targeted for the prevention or elimination of slums and blight, according to the release.
Ultimately, the projects improve people’s lives, McAuliffe said in the release.
They also make communities better places to live, work and do business, said state Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.