Our Opinion: Old Town revilatization gathers momentum
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
New developments are occurring in Old Town.
The Old Town Revitalization Company was established about four years ago to upgrade the core area of Jefferson City.
The company is a public-private partnership that networks with: city government; developers and businesses, including financial institutions; churches; the public schools’ building trades class; and other not-for-profit groups, including Habitat for Humanity.
The mission is “revitalizing Old Town, one building at a time.” Company President Phil Freeman points out buildings and neighborhoods didn’t fall into disrepair overnight, and cannot be restored overnight, either.
The company’s preference is to renovate structures, particularly historic ones, Freeman said, but buildings that are unsafe will be razed.
Demolition is the fate for a building at 614 E. McCarty St. recently acquired by the company through an estate settlement.
The group hopes the enhancement — replacing an eyesore with green space — will prompt neighbors and developers to continue improvements to the block.
Such an outcome would reflect the pattern established by previous projects involving the company.
It’s initial effort was working with private developers to revitalize commercial buildings and streetscape in the 100 block of East Dunklin Street.
That was followed by the company’s acquisition and renovation of the Old Town Community Center, now the site of Common Ground, at the corner of Clark Avenue and Atchison Street.
The building was renovated through a federal Housing and Urban Development grant acquired by the city. The Old Town company owns the property and leases it for a nominal fee to a collaboration of local churches united as Common Ground.
The project, as intended, has spurred other activity in the 800 block of Clark Avenue, including investments by a private developer and involvement by Habitat for Humanity.
The Old Town Revitalization Company is gaining traction.
Available incentives include: a residential tax reimbursement; a down payment incentive program; a single-family loan program; and an adaptive reuse program.
Freeman said the company plans a marketing campaign to encourage people to live in Old Town, where they can enjoy the historic atmosphere and walk to work if employed in the core area.
The Old Town Revitalization Company is a prototype for progress, and each accomplishment a model for momentum.