Share this story...
Latest News

A sampling of efforts to fight blight in Appalachia

Efforts to rehabilitate vacant or dilapidated property have sprung up around Appalachia, with states in the region taking varying approaches.

While it’s common for big cities to have efforts to fight urban blight, it’s less common to find extensive networks aimed at remedying abandoned or dilapidated buildings in small towns or rural areas.

Below is a sampling of efforts toward abandoned and dilapidated buildings in the Appalachian region.

___

WEST VIRGINIA:

Brownfields Assistance Centers at two universities assist local governments with vacant commercial and industrial sites, and the state’s Land Bank Program was set up to take such properties off towns and counties’ hands.

Another state program gives communities resources to survey vacant properties and develop rehab or upkeep strategies. The West Virginia University College of Law’s land use clinic help towns with legal issues.

Nonprofit and social enterprise organizations focusing on redeveloping vacant or underused property include Coalfield Development Corp. and the West Virginia Community Development Hub.

___

PENNSYLVANIA:

Fighting blight is a focus area for the nonprofit Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. Blueprint Communities, which also operates in West Virginia, works on community development plans.

The Western Pennsylvania Brownfields Center at Carnegie Mellon University helps with the development of sites that face complex issues.

Municipalities in the Appalachian region including Pittsburgh and Westmoreland County also operate land banks, as do Philadelphia and Harrisburg to the east.

___

KENTUCKY:

Efforts in Kentucky such as InVision Hazard aim to use older buildings for redevelopment, while Beattyville and other communities have used federal funds to rehab empty houses.

The state’s Brownfield Redevelopment Program offers free environmental assessments to communities and nonprofit organizations.

The Landbank Authority Inc. in Louisville is noted by redevelopment experts for its focus on revitalizing vacant property.

___

VIRGINIA:

Roanoke has implemented a citywide Brownfield Redevelopment Plan and has used federal funds in the last decade to come up with strategies for particular neighborhoods.

The state’s Brownfield/Land Renewal program cites a former coal-loading facility transformed into a park and outdoor classroom in one of its Appalachian counties among a dozen success stories around the state.

___

TENNESSEE:

The Knoxville Office of Neighborhoods works with groups on neighborhood improvement, and the city of Oak Ridge operates a Land Bank Corporation.

The state government also offers a brownfields toolkit on its website.

___

OHIO:

Youngstown is noted for citywide efforts to redevelop neighborhoods as its population has declined along with the loss of steel industry jobs. To the southwest, Muskingum County’s Land Reutilization Corp. focuses on returning vacant property to productive use.

Several other Ohio cities outside Appalachia also have land banks, including Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.