Rising the Bar: Improving, revitalizing neighborhoods
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bristol Borough’s 5-year Economic Development Strategic Plan has been submitted to the borough council and the public. This series will address each of the 10 pillars, one a week, to inform residents about suggested measures, and how goals outlined in the report can be accomplished.
BRISTOL BOROUGH -The first of the 10 “pillars” outlined by the Bristol Borough focused on the housing situation in the borough. Bill Pezza, chairman of the 5-year Economic Development Strategic Action Plan, called “Raising the Bar,” said at a special council meeting held -une 17 that all neighborhoods in the borough should be given the once over to see where improvements and/or revitalization is needed.
Four in 20 homes in town are renters and a good number of those units are neglected by out-of-town absentee landlords. Even when cited, these landlords pay the fines and leave town. It’s cheaper to pay up than to do what might be several thousand dollars-worth of repairs, officials said.
According to the report, the borough represents the fourth oldest existing housing stock in the state. There are 4,237 housing units in town. Twentyseven percent are single units; 40 percent are duplex; 11 percent are three or four attached rows, and 11 percent make up rows of five or more attached houses.
The committee divided the town into five “distinct” neighborhoods, which are, in general: Gateway (the entrance from Routes 13 and 413); Northside (spreading from Route 13 and Beaver Street); Mill Industrial (the area around the old Grundy mills); Harriman (the neighbor- hood that stretches from Wilson Avenue to Green Lane); and Old Town, those residences closest to the Delaware River).
The committee came up with suggested incentives aimed at appealing to potential homebuyers and existing homeowners, such as seeking federal tax incentives for rehabilitation of historic buildings, and state-sponsored tax breaks for first-time homebuyers.
-oanna Schneyder, vice president of National Penn Bank on Radcliffe Street, spoke about a program for low-to midincome homebuyers who could be directed to affordable housing. She said that purchase prices for those potential homeowners could run about $160,000 or lower. And there are sessions that help prepare low- and mid-income people for home ownership.
“We give training and work with them, we lower restriction, research fix-up grants and [get them into homes] for no more than $1,500. We don’t want to see anyone [who qualifies] fail,” Schneyder said.
Councilwoman Robyn Trunell also suggested the borough target properties that have long been dilapidated, such as the old Stock’s restaurant, which the borough has sought to have declared blighted, and another former garage that fronts both Radcliffe Street in the front and Cedar and Market streets in the rear.
“It’s a disgrace. Something has to be done,” Trunell said
Long-term suggestions include encouraging the formation of neighborhood associations to foster community pride in properties, exploring the return of yearly inspections of rental properties with multiple citations, and development of a carpenters’ association for the purpose of conducting free seminars for residents interested in remodeling their homes.
Pezza said that the entire plan, distributed in booklet form to the council, would be available online in the near future. He also stressed that volunteers are needed to help carry out the plan that the committee believes will improve the borough as a place to visit, live and invest.