$3.5 million taxpayer revitalization project not so pretty - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

$3.5 million taxpayer revitalization project not so pretty

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Is it a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars or a way to save a run down neighborhood?

A $3.5 million plan to revitalize a neighborhood off Cane Run Road has totally fallen apart. Things are such a mess with this project one councilman wants to cut future funding, effectively abandoning a development that too many, already seem to have forgotten.

In a place called Boxelder Crossings, neighborhood revitalization isn't as pretty as Louisville Metro Government hoped.

"It's just really another eyesore," said Charlotte Baxter, who lives in an existing home on Boxelder Road.

Run down buildings tower over grass that is waist high in some places, chest high in others. All this, right across the street from a row of taxpayer funded houses that was supposed to transform Baxter's community.

"But it just stopped," she said. "I don't know what happened."

In 2010, Louisville Metro got $3,502,275 in federal and state funds to buy up and demolish run down properties along Boxelder Road, then replace them with 38 new affordable homes to sell to mixed income families.

They cleared the land but have only built 9 houses for an average taxpayer investment of $388,888 per home. Those houses were put on the market for $120,000 to $130,000 and not a single one has sold.

So Louisville Metro has now scrapped plans for the rest of the Boxelder Crossings. Leaving behind people like Baxter who has lived on the street for 40 years.

"A bad message," she said. "They really don't care."

Jennifer Clarke and her boys are one of three families now renting the government built homes while the rest sit vacant.

"I'm not interested in buying here," Clarke said. "I can get a normal home for the same price as I can for here."

Continuing attempts by a non profit partner of the city to sell the other houses has not helped by the seeming lack of attention by Metro Government. Neighbors say they haven't mowed on the street all year.

Virginia Peck, the director of the city's Department of Community Services and Revitalization, was not available for an interview.

She issued a statement calling Boxelder "an ambitious project that is helping revitalize one of our most challenged neighborhoods."

"We've made significant progress since it was first proposed in 2009, including demolishing several decaying apartment buildings; constructing and listing new single-family homes, some of which are already occupied by aspiring homeowners," Peck wrote.

"Two rental property owners are receiving loans to spruce up occupied properties. We have recently purchased five vacant apartment buildings and have immediate plans to buy more. Unfortunately, we must do the project in phases because we don't have enough federal dollars to complete it in one setting -- but we remain committed to getting the project finished."

The city now plans to take the 29 empty lots and roll them into another redevelopment project going on nearby. That means another $300,000 in taxpayer money to buy up even more properties to connect the two neighborhoods.

Councilman Jerry Miller says enough is enough. He initially planned to offer an amendment at Thursday night's budget hearing to cut the Boxelder Funding.

Instead he plans to ask the Peck to testify in front of council with the goal of moving the Boxelder funding to other redevelopment projects  rather than, in Miller's words, "throw good money after bad."

Peck said she "looks forward to briefing the Council and citizens on the status of the Boxelder work and its future."

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