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$500,000 state grant to boost New Kensington’s blight fight

September 25, 2018

New Kensington will get $500,000 through a state grant program to continue its ongoing fight against blight throughout the city.

“This is very important,” Mayor Tom Guzzo said. “We have been looking for ways to fund demolition in our blighted areas, and this will go a long way toward our revitalization plan as a whole.”

The city worked with state leaders to secure the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant for a revitalization project that includes environmental testing of properties, abatement of contamination, demolition of dangerous structures, disconnection of utility lines, and preparation of the properties for redevelopment.

The project is expected to bring economic growth through enhanced property values, a stronger local tax base, and increased commercial and residential development. The city’s sanitary authority will be replacing infrastructure to bring the system into compliance to serve the project area.

“This project is a great example of our continued efforts to revitalize Pennsylvania’s communities by battling blight and contamination,” Gov. Tom Wolf said. “This funding will help New Kensington create a safer community that is prime for redevelopment.”

Wolf spokesman J.J. Abbott said New Kensington was selected through a competitive process that includes input from the governor’s office, the General Assembly, and the Department of Community and Economic Development.

“The grants are evaluated by our experts in community and economic development to measure community impact and importance to the local economy,” he said.

New Kensington Councilman Doug Aftanas heads the city’s public safety department, which includes code enforcement and zoning. He said the target area for the funds will be New Kensington’s Hill and Parnassus neighborhoods.

“We’re going to move on this quick,” he said. “I have been working with some residents in Parnassus and the New Ken Hill -- they’ve been extremely patient with me and the city on the hope that we are going to continue to move forward with cleaning up the communities. People are very excited and very hopeful that this is going to really help rejuvenate this redevelopment explosion we’re having right now in our town.”

Aftanas said city officials and employees will come up with a plan on what structures are the highest priority, and work from there. There are about 110 structures on the city’s demolition list, and many have been on it for years. Some are owned by the city and others have private owners.

He said there also may be opportunities to rehab some of the properties.

“We don’t want to just tear everything down -- we want to see what we can salvage and what we can’t,” he said.

State Rep. Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, and State Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, helped the city get the grant.

Dermody said the money will be a major boost to New Kensington’s revitalization efforts.

“It’s a great new chapter in the story that’s being written by the people of New Kensington,” Dermody said.

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