Program takes aim at blight

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Program takes aim at blight

Tribune Chronicle – YOUNGSTOWN – Presley Gillespie said he believes the city is at a crossroads and a bill championed by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown may be key to helping them go down the right road.

At a news conference Tuesday morning in front of an abandoned South Side bakery, Gillespie, Brown and others said the Project Rebuild Act would help cities get rid of not just vacant housing stock, but also vacant and blighted commercial properties.

Gillespie, who heads up the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp., said cleaning up neighborhoods is important because it leads to more private sector investment when they see that work is being done to improve neighborhoods, and that could be enough to turn the tide back to reinvestment.

Already, a new grocery store has been opened in the neighborhood, and across the city there are more such projects getting set to start, he said.

”We believe we are at a pivotal moment in time for our city and region,” Gillespie said.

The bill was introduced in the Senate March 6 by U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., with Brown listed as one of 10 sponsors. Brown, D-Ohio, said giving communities the resources to get rid of blight will let local officials make more changes.

”It will make a difference in these neighborhoods in Youngstown as they try to come back,” Brown said.

The Project Rebuild Act would build on the Neighborhood Stabilization Act, Brown said, and he added that the stabilization act also enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. Brown said the problem of vacant and blighted buildings is a common one in suburban and rural America as well.

Project Rebuild would provide up to $15 billion to allow for communities to tackle their building problems in any way they choose, such as buying, renovating or demolishing dilapidated structures.

Supporters claim Project Rebuild would give jobs to 191,000 people and deal with 150,000 properties across the country.

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