NK redevelopment plan hinges on block grants
NEW KENSINGTON: The city's redevelopment authority could be several months away from acquiring about 35 properties behind the post office to make way for light industry.
As early as June, a public hearing will be held to discuss the project, city officials said.
But the authority still has a number of hurdles to overcome, including approval from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to spend Community Development Block Grant money on the acquisitions.
A key element in the equation is convincing the DCED that the authority can successfully recruit the light industries it's pursuing.
To do that, the authority is developing a marketing strategy that will outline its potential to secure businesses to fill the area, which is about 7 acres running along Fifth Avenue behind the post office and bounded by the railroad tracks.
Only about 4 acres are suitable for building.
Richard Janus, authority executive director, said he hopes to have two businesses fill the parcel.
He also said the strategy should be enough to persuade the DCED to give the go-ahead. The authority has not been able to recruit companies for the site, which, Janus said, is a concern for the DCED.
Megan Galko, DCED spokeswoman, said the strategy "is exactly what the DCED is looking for."
"They're doing everything we've asked them to," she said. She would not speculate, however, whether the DCED would release the funds.
Janus said that although the authority hasn't landed a firm commitment, it is in discussions about the site with an interested party, which he wouldn't identify.
The authority plans to spend between $1.6 million and $2 million on the acquisitions and demolitions, the majority of which is block grant money.
Residents whose houses will be acquired apparently endorse the plan.
"If it's going to clean up the area, then I'm all for it," said Abraham Lewis, who lives at 536 12th Ave. "Most of the people who live around here feel the same way."
Janus said, "People basically are begging me to get them out of there."
He added that only a handful of the residents have voiced opposition.
The authority will spend an average of $20,000 per house on acquisition and relocating the residents.
Lewis said he wasn't sure if he would stay in New Kensington. "I don't know what's happening to this city," he said.
Meanwhile, the authority also needs council to approve the Fifth Avenue proposal.
Council has approved a much broader redevelopment plan that discusses strategies for developing the area of the city bounded by the Arnold line on the north, 11th Street on the south, Industrial Boulevard on the west and the railroad tracks on the east.
Council is expected to approve the proposal.
"I'm in favor of it and I think the rest of council is, too," Councilman Don Bowers said. "We all wanted to move forward with it."
Council will not take action until after the public hearing, prior to which the authority must run a legal advertisement three days per week for three weeks listing the properties to be acquired.
As for the broader plan council already approved, Janus said the authority has not developed a firm idea of what it wants to do outside of the Fifth Avenue project.
He said other developments could be as much as 20 years away.