CHARLESTON, WV – September 27, 2010 – (RealEstateRama) — The last three years have not been comforting to struggling neighborhoods. Unemployment has risen, credit has tightened, foreclosures have created blight and a soft commercial market has prompted more “available” signs. Today, however, some West Virginia communities received news that should make them more optimistic about their futures.
The Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLBank) of Pittsburgh, creator of the “Blueprint Communities” initiative, announced that eight communities selected as part of the neighborhood renewal program in 2007 are being recertified based on the progress they have made. This recertification opens the door to additional in-kind and financial assistance as these Blueprint Communities continue to implement the community revitalization plans they have developed.
West Virginia’s Blueprint Communities were officially named at a State Capitol event in March 2007 that featured a keynote address by Gov. Joe Manchin. Since that time, community teams have been extraordinarily busy. They have undergone training in leadership, organizational development and strategic planning skills; prioritized key community goals; built consensus for specific projects; and taken concrete steps in implementing them.
The eight Blueprint Communities recertified today are: Ansted, Fairmont-Southside, McDowell County, Mullens, Ritchie County, St. Albans, Shinnston and Williamson. As a result of their successes, team leaders were told today, these communities will now gain access to additional tools to continue the momentum they have created.
“I am pleased that West Virginia’s Blueprint Communities have shown a dedication to community development,” said Gov. Manchin. “Any time we can improve quality of life for West Virginians and help our communities grow, it is a win-win situation. I commend all of the people who have worked so diligently to allow success to happen.”
“As these Blueprint Communities build on their achievements, they can look forward to additional training opportunities, fresh mini-grants, greater access to technical assistance, prospective funding from public and private partners, and the ability to tap into FHLBank funds set aside for affordable housing and small business job creation,” announced John J. Bendel, the Bank’s director of Community Investment.
Success by the numbers
How well have West Virginia’s Blueprint Communities done over the past three years?
- $13.56 million in community development activity has resulted from the initiative.
- FHLBank has committed $525,091 in affordable housing, homeownership rehabilitation and small business lending funds to Blueprint Communities to date.
- 13 housing projects are under way.
- 22 business and industrial development projects have taken off.
- 25 infrastructure projects (sewer, water, streetscape and beautification) have begun.
- 17 other community projects such as tourism boosting measures and youth programs are nearing completion.
Success in many packages
What has Blueprint Communities meant to neighborhoods? A partial list of successes includes:
- Ansted: Better housing through a Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant and the first steps in converting an old high school to a business incubator/community center/government offices
- Fairmont-Southside: Nine more businesses since Blueprint Communities began
- McDowell: $700,000 in funding for a new sewer system for 23 families in the Ashland community
- Mullens: The opening of an outdoor entertainment center and creation of a condemnation board that is razing and repairing properties
- Ritchie County: Internet sales and entrepreneurship training for craftspeople; the opening of a summer-long farmers market
- St. Albans: Reopening of an historic property now serving as a conference center, concert hall and theater
- Shinnston: Development of 32 units of seniors housing and a new downtown farmers market
- Williamson: Establishment of a Visitors and Convention Bureau and progress on a new streetscape.
Partners and banks
In addition to FHLBank Pittsburgh, Blueprint Communities sponsors in West Virginia include City National Bank of West Virginia and WesBanco Bank. Program partners include: The Brownfields Assistance Centers at West Virginia University and Marshall University, Brushy Fork Institute, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, The Community Development HUB, Heartland Center for Leadership Development, USDA Rural Development, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – Charleston Office, the West Virginia Department of Commerce, West Virginia Housing Development Fund and West Virginia University Extension Service.
Members of the FHLBank financial institution cooperative that have participated on community teams include: City National Bank of West Virginia, Fayette County National Bank, First Exchange Bank, First National Bank of Williamson, Pioneer Community Bank, United Bank, WesBanco Bank and West Union Bank.
“The Blueprint Communities initiative continues to inspire, inform and enable some truly engaged citizens across West Virginia,” said Laura Rye, FHLBank’s community investment consultant. “It’s a blueprint for change that’s working, even in today’s tough economy.”
Neil Cotiaux, FHLBank, 412-335-9488; Neil.cotiaux (at) fhlb-pgh (dot) com
Mayor Dick Callaway, St. Albans, 304-727-2971
City Manager Debra Herndon, Shinnston, 304-592-3076, mgr (at) shinnstonwv (dot) com
Mayor “Pete” Hobbs, Ansted, 304-658-5901, anstedmayor (at) verizon (dot) net