Neighborhood Programs Discussed By JRC

The Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 is underway.

On Wednesday, Jamestown Renaissance Corp. officials discussed the new version of its program that has been around since 2011, which is dedicated toward exterior home improvement and bringing neighbors together, with the city Strategic Planning and Partnerships Commission.

Mary Maxwell, JRC neighborhood project associate, said during the eight years of the program, 500 properties have been improved and more than $500,000 has been invested by homeowners and local foundations, which financially supported the program.

The program changed this year from allowing any neighborhood in the city to participate to having only property owners in a targeted area apply. Four targeted areas were designated for the Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0, which was based on the 2017 Housing Market Analysis and Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy study that was performed by czb LLC.

The targeted areas include the northside of the city around Lakeview Avenue area along North Main Street; the westside around Fairmount, Hall and Livingston avenues; the southside around Hazeltine/Forest avenues; and the eastside around Allen Park and UPMC Chautauqua along Foote Avenue.

The first target area selected for Renaissance Block Challenge 2.0 was eastside around Allen Park and UPMC Chautauqua along Foote Avenue. Maxwell said the program will stay in the targeted area for three years, with homeowners allowed two years instead of just one to finish their projects. She said a letter was sent to 300 residences explaining the program and how to participate. She added that Elam Avenue is the “poster child” for the first year of the program, with nearly every homeowner participating.

Property owners selected to participate in the program are eligible for a matching grant up to $2,000 to facilitate their exterior projects. Projects funded in the program include painting, porch repair, soffit repair, sidewalk repair, new mailboxes, exterior lighting, front-yard landscaping, front doors/windows, driveways, driveway aprons and gutters.

Maxwell said also for the first time the JRC has rolled out a new program — Paint Jamestown. She said the program will provide $1,000 in matching funds to those that use a specific historic color scheme. She added JRC officials have a book that provides information to homeowners about the historic color scheme.

“The idea is to have complementary colors,” said Pete Miraglia, JRC executive director.

Maxwell said UPMC Chautauqua donated $10,000 toward the program and the Gebbie Foundation has donated $2,000 so 12 houses can participate in the first year of the program. She said the houses have already been determined.

Another project the JRC coordinates to improve residential properties is to work with state officials to designate certain areas of the city a historic district. So far downtown Jamestown and Lakeview Avenue have been designated historic districts. Maxwell said JRC officials are currently working with state officials to designate Forest Heights as possibly the next historic district in the city. She said there are 135 properties in the proposed Forest Heights historic district.

Once an area of the city has been approved by the National Register of Historic Places and the state Board of Historic Preservation property owners are eligible to receive tax credits. For residential properties, homeowners will only be eligible to receive state historic tax credits for improvement projects. For commercial properties, owners are eligible to receive both state and federal tax credits. Tax credits for each state and federal program is 20 percent. Eligible renovation projects for commercial properties could receive up to 40 percent in tax credits.