Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Finding a Way to Get Abandoned Homes Back in Use; Former City Council President Wants to Pursue the Challenge

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Finding a Way to Get Abandoned Homes Back in Use; Former City Council President Wants to Pursue the Challenge

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Dozens of neighborhood activists and nonprofit organizers joined a Jacksonville councilman Monday to talk through ways to put abandoned houses in struggling neighborhoods back into use across the city.

"I believe we have an incredible opportunity to turn a community liability into a community asset," Councilman Bill Gulliford told about 75 people who filled a City Hall meeting room to talk with members of the Washington-based Hope Now Alliance, a collection of mortgage businesses and investors organized with federal support.

Gulliford, who last month finished a one-year term as City Council president, said he wants to pursue the startup of a community-based organization that could receive and reuse a large chunk of the thousands of homes in Duval County that sit decaying and unproductive.

Hope Now has been looking at Jacksonville and two other communities - Philadelphia and Dayton, Ohio - as distinct places where ideas for handling abandoned houses might be tried out, said Eric Selk, the group's executive director.

Getting support for revitalizing buildings in shaky old neighborhoods turned out to be the easy part.

"We need ... to return these properties to the tax rolls," urged Paul Tutwiler, who has worked to redevelop property for homes and businesses around Myrtle Avenue as executive director of the Northwest Jacksonville Community Development Corp.

But figuring out how to make that happen was a different question.

"We need to know where we want to go," said Gulliford, who said he'd like to see buildings reused by a group that's not part of city government.

The discussion of salvaging abandoned buildings comes as the council is about to consider legislation that would require demolition of many homes after they have been boarded up for two years. …

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