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By the end of the year, Johnstown’s West End neighborhood will have a new look: less blight and more opportunities for development and beautification.

Through grants from Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (CFA) and 1889 Foundation, along with other support secured by the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, county and city partners were able to launch a project to tear down seventeen derelict properties along Fairfield Avenue and Strayer Street, an important gateway to the city.

It all started with a $75,000 donation to CFA by a donor who wanted to alleviate blight. CFA matched the individual contribution with $75,000 from the Foundation’s Community Initiatives funding, and 1889 Foundation matched the resulting $150,000 to create a total of $300,000 to fight blight.

“This collaboration is a perfect example of how donors’ intent can be multiplied—in this case fourfold—to revitalize our communities and make the greatest possible impact,” CFA President Mike Kane says.

The project also shows the power of partnerships.

“We’re able to leverage funds from our donors with those from 1889 Foundation and all of the partners supporting this project,” Kane adds. “Working together, everybody’s support is greater. And this is just a start to what we hope will be continued partnerships as we all work to invigorate our community.”

Officials from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority (JRA), Cambria County Redevelopment Authority, and City of Johnstown kicked off the project on Thursday and aim to have demolition finished by the end of 2019.

1889 Foundation President Susan Mann says the cooperative funding effort sets the stage for revitalization in the West End, a critical corridor into the city from Route 22.

“Blight is a major problem in our area, and blight has a significant impact on quality of life and the health and wellness of our community,” Mann says.

The seventeen blighted structures will be ranked and placed on a timeline based on health and public safety issues, with help from the Johnstown Fire Department and the City of Johnstown Codes Enforcement officers. Part of the work will be completed by City of Johnstown employees using JRA equipment, and some of the demolition will be put out for bid from outside contractors.

The JRA envisions future redevelopment of these properties into urban green spaces, raised bed gardens, recreation areas, and side lot projects for neighboring property owners. The area is also zoned for commercial redevelopment.

Project partners anticipate that the blight removal will be a catalyst for not only site redevelopment, but also other types of improvements to the neighborhood. For example, funding to improve facades has been allocated from the City of Johnstown, JRA Executive Director Melissa Komar says.

“We hope some in the neighborhood will choose to take advantage of that,” she says.“We look forward to working with the community to revitalize the neighborhood for new businesses and current residents.”

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