Ris­ing the Bar: Im­prov­ing, re­vi­tal­iz­ing neigh­bor­hoods

The Advance of Bucks County - - BRISTOL AREA - By El­iz­a­beth Fisher

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.

Ad­vance cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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