By Dennis Phillips | Original Article
July 2, 2018

With Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 expected to start next year, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation officials presented additional information to the Jamestown City Council about why the program will be changing in 2019.

On June 18, Mary Maxwell, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation neighborhood project manager, Len Faulk, JRC board member, and Randy Sweeney, JRC board member, discussed new information from the study – Housing Market Analysis and Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy — performed by czbLLC last year. Producers of the housing report are the same urban planning and community development consultants who created the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan report in 2010, which led to the start of the Renaissance Block Challenge.

The Renaissance Block Challenge encourages groups of neighbors to collaborate on exterior improvements to their properties in order to boost confidence in Jamestown’s neighborhoods and inspire others to reinvest.

Since 2011, 35 neighborhoods have participated in the JRC’s Renaissance Block Challenge, with almost 350 property owners investing more than $975,000 in exterior improvements and repairs. This year will be the last for the current format of the Renaissance Block Challenge.

In 2018, Renaissance Block Challenge neighborhoods include Forest Heights, Royal and McDaniel avenues, Lakeview Avenue, Prospect Street and Superior Street to participate in the program. Maxwell said a total of 48 property owners in participating in the program this year.

Following the latest czb report, the study suggest that city officials focus on four areas of the city for housing revitalization. The areas include the northside of the city around Lakeview Avenue area along North Main Street; the westside around Fairmount, Hall and Livingston avenues; the southside around Hazeltine/Forest avenues; and the eastside around Allen Park and UPMC Chautauqua WCA along Foote Avenue.

Faulk said the study suggests that $1 million to $1.5 million should be invested during the next five years in each of the four areas, which, according to the study, are on the outskirts of some of the best housing in the city. He said the czb study also suggest that homeowners in these four areas of the city have around $20 million in deferred money that could go toward housing maintenance. He added JRC officials are still working on how to implement the new Renaissance Block Challenge program.

“We need to find a creative way to do it,” he said. “The city will only survive if the middle-market housing survives.”

Randy Sweeney said it will be important for JRC officials to continue working with community partners like location foundations, city government, CHRIC, CODE and Chautauqua Opportunities when it comes to implementing the new housing rehabilitation program.

During the discussion, Vanessa Weinert, At-Large councilwoman, asked if there is a comprehensive report on all the studies that have been done on housing in the city by local organizations. She asked if one could be done if there isn’t already one in existence. JRC officials said they will investigate to see if there is an all inclusive housing report and, if there is one, if it is something that could be created.