On a City-organized bus tour throughout the inner city and some suburban neighborhoods Saturday, about 20 members of the Neighborhood Improvements Bond Committee got a firsthand view of some of the 15 City staff-recommended areas for affordable housing.
The committee has been meeting since September to identify geographic areas where 2017 bond funds will go toward the creation of affordable housing, the redevelopment of existing structures, or other infrastructural improvements to a neighborhood.
While various maps and outlines showing each area’s potential for enhancement have been prepared and presented by City staff at each committee meeting, Saturday was a chance for the group to get a better visual of the location and scale of each vacant lot, structure, and dilapidated building.
“Rather than seeing these sites on paper, to drive to the areas and see the buildings and see the potential I think really helps clarify (the improvement plans),” said committee Co-chair Jim Leonard, who also is president at local home builder Greenboro Homes.
The Near West-Five Points area, for example, is home to a number of decaying structures and vacant industrial properties, such as the six vacant Scobey properties located near the Haven for Hope campus, that could either be rehabilitated or transformed into affordable, multi-family housing by a developer.
But plans for each area differ, depending on each one’s existing amenities such as access to public transit and commercial spaces. Some smaller vacant lots on the Eastside could be targeted for single-family developments, whereas the vacant commercial properties located near South Park Mall could be retrofitted into retail space.
Some of the parking lots behind the mall also could be ideal for multi-family housing developments, said interim Assistant Director of the City Department of Planning and Community Development Richard Keith, who helped lead the tour.
The group also got to see some of the City’s and its partner’s previous affordable housing projects that were successfully implemented in recent years, ranging from apartment buildings such as the Peanut Factory Lofts to smaller town homes.
Once the committee ranks and selects the areas to recommend to City Council for bond funds, and pending the bond’s approval by voters in May 2017, the City will gather feedback on the specific projects the neighbors and other stakeholders would like to see in each location.
“We’re continuing to tweak and revise these maps based on stakeholder input and input you’ve given us at the meetings,” Keith said.
Five other areas situated west and north of downtown were on the itinerary to visit in the afternoon. The committee’s next meeting is Thursday, Nov. 3, where they’ll continue to review the target areas based on Saturday’s observations.