By Kaylee Lindenmuth
GIRARDVILLE - Monday afternoon, state, county, and local officials were on hand for a tour of a blight remediation and housing project, and blighted properties a short walk away the borough seeks to demolish.
State Senator David G. Argall (R-29) and Schuylkill County Commissioner Gary Hess accompanied officials from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), Schuylkill Community Action, and Girardville borough for the tour, which began at 1:30pm.
The tour began with the lone vacant unit in the complex, an apartment at the rear of the property.
The six-unit complex for low-income housing was completed in early 2018, with tenants moving in shortly after. Replacing fire damaged properties, the complex was touted as a blight remediation project by the commonwealth.
"It’s great to be able to see the progress we’ve made so far, as well as areas of opportunity for the future," said Rick Villelo, DCED deputy secretary.
The project was supported by the commonwealth HOME and Keystone Communities programs, in conjunction with Schuylkill Community Action, who led the project.
“The partnership of Schuylkill Community Action with the Borough of Girardville, Schuylkill County government, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to eliminate blighted buildings and develop affordable housing has made a huge difference for the future outlook of Girardville Borough,” said Ted Dreisbach, Schuylkill Community Action executive director. “The development not only provides affordable and safe housing for community residents, but also is an incentive for other residents to invest in the upkeep of their homes. The result is a more vitalized community that is more conducive for business growth and development.”
The project is far from the first undertaken by Schuylkill Community Action in Girardville or northern Schuylkill.
In recent years, Schuylkill Community Action built homes at properties in Girardville at 2-12 East Main Street, 27 East Main Street, 43 West Main Street, and 6-10 South William Street. Elsewhere in northern Schuylkill, SCA built homes in Shenandoah, Mahanoy City, and Gordon.
Now, Girardville borough is looking to tackle a project to eliminate blight on West Ogden Street, where all but four homes in a row are abandoned, a focus of the Girardville blight committee. The tour group visited the block after touring the housing project.
According to Rob Krick, Girardville council president, noted at the blight committee meeting on July 19 that "we've got to be able to try to get ahold of them and own all of them, so that the demo project can make sense and we can take down about eight houses."
Paul Macknosky, director of the northeast regional office for DCED in Pittston, Luzerne County, added Monday that strategies are also needed to determine what will replace the blighted properties, and what construction is permitted in the floodplain, with the Mahanoy Creek bordering the rear of the properties.