Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Positively Paseo on Track to Renovate More Houses in OKC

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Positively Paseo on Track to Renovate More Houses in OKC

Article excerpt

A struggling artist in Oklahoma City can not only find plenty of galleries to show their work in the Paseo Arts District, they might also find an affordable home to buy.

Through a program that taps into federal and private funds to revitalize houses, the Paseo neighborhood has seen ramshackle and dilapidated homes come back to life in the central Oklahoma City neighborhood.

Positively Paseo started in 1991 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit community development corporation. The homes it renovates typically sell for about $100,000.

The neighborhood has a collection of Spanish revival stucco and tile clad buildings, many that date back to the 1920s. The district's borders are Western Avenue, Walker Avenue, Northwest 23rd Street and Northwest 36th Street.

Positively Paseo became a Community Housing Development Organization in 2004 with an all-volunteer board of directors. The group works closely with the Paseo Neighborhood Association.

Many of the homes to the south of the Paseo art galleries were also built in the 1920s, but as people began to move to the suburbs over the years, and with a shaky local economy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many of the homes fell into decline.

Emily Pomeroy, president of Positively Paseo, said when the group became a CHDO in 2004 it opened the doors for a different kind of funding. The money to buy and revitalize - or raze and rebuild - homes comes from the federal government and is dispersed by the city. Additional money comes from grants, bank loans, and cash reserves generated by home sales. All of the projects must adhere to Historic Preservation guidelines.

The goal is to make homeownership possible for low- to moderate- income individuals and families.

"These houses aren't flips by any means," Pomeroy said. "They are significant projects."

Since 1999, 15 homes have been renovated or rebuilt and sold by the group.

Public money for the projects comes in cycles.

When a project is targeted, Positively Paseo must request funds from the city to buy the property, then go back to the city for more cash to pay for redevelopment.

Pomeroy said the cash is labeled in three ways: red money, which has the most restrictions; blue money, with fewer restrictions; and green money, which is the group's to spend as it sees fit.

"The more we use money, the fewer restrictions there are placed on it," she said.

Some of the green money has been used for landscaping improvements in the district or to give grants to groups like the Paseo Artists Association for its work in the area.

Acquiring a home and doing major renovations can be a daunting task with a pre-set spending limit.

Lori Ward, who is involved with Positively Paseo and the Paseo Neighborhood Association, said the group sometimes spends upwards of $90,000 for a house it will sell for just over $100,000.

But Ward said because each home must meet Historical Preservation guidelines buyers get some peace of mind knowing there won't be any major projects. …

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