Old Town effort on abandoned buildings still viable

City crackdown could spur new interest

As Jefferson City presses abandoned building owners to get their properties up to code and to pay fees, the Old Town Revitalization Company has reached out with an alternative.

This winter, Chairman Phil Freeman sent letters to more than 110 owners currently on the city’s list. About 20 percent replied, but only one was interested in possibly making their property a tax-deductible donation.

The board will consider whether the property presents a feasible rehabilitation for a single-family home.

Janice McMillan, city planning and protective services director, noted her department was preparing to “take the next step” to address the abandoned building issue by taking violators to municipal court.

“I expect you’ll hear more responses when we turn the heat up,” McMillan said.

The board has concentrated efforts on its downpayment assistance program working directly with potential single-family property owners.

Now, the board will consider developing a pool of remodeling experts and developers who could renovate the homes, which could then be sold to single-family owners.

Members of the Old Town board met with U.S. Housing and Urban Development officials this week. After listening to needs and hopes for the community from interested parties and city personnel, the federal officials will consider how they could lend assistance.

While the agency likely has little funds to share, technical assistance could help for future grant applications or when money does become available.

Sonny Sanders with the local Metropolitan Planning Organization announced they have budgeted for a consultant to help develop wayfinding for the region.

Improving sign information may increase the time and money tourists spend, as well as making the areas safer, Sanders said.

Mark Mehmert, community development manager with the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, noted the benefit of their budget cycle coinciding with the chamber president’s initiative for beautification of the future Whitton Expressway interchange at Lafayette Street.

The Missouri Department of Transportation’s interchange project and improvement the U.S. 50 should begin this fall.

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