Program Helping Get Rid of Blight in Counties

The most recent of several buildings purchased with the intent of removing blight from Hancock and Brooke counties has been taken down.

It’s part of a program spearheaded by the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, with funding provided through contributions from Huntington Bank, including a recent $20,000 donation.

“We’ve accumulated these gifts so we can start doing things in groupings,” BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said of the most recent phase, which included the purchase of five properties. “This is the first one.”

The structure at 1056 Collins Memorial Drive in Chester was torn down last week, according to Ford, with plans to focus on structures in New Cumberland next.

The BDC has been developing its Brownfields, Abandoned and Dilapidated program for three years, inspired by the economic development agency’s efforts to rehabilitate commercial sites in the region. The B.A.D. program focuses on residential properties, for which grants and other clean-up funding aren’t readily available.

“The gift from Huntington Bank helps us tremendously in the panhandle, because we just do not have enough money to take care of all of these homes that have been abandoned,” said BDC Board Chairman Bill D’Alesio. “The problem with abandoned homes is they cause property values to decline in a neighborhood which can not only be detrimental to nearby property owners, they affect our ability to recruit business and industry.”

As part of the program, the BDC works with community task forces, comprised of residents and government officials, to better identify properties.

In the past, identified structures in Chester, New Cumberland, Weirton, Follansbee, Wellsburg, Beech Bottom and Bethany have been addressed, with some taken over by local nonprofit organizations.

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