Plans are underway for a new city project coordinated by the City of Owensboro Community Development department, which will focus on revitalizing the northwest end of the city near O.Z. Tyler Distillery. The newest project is slated to begin in 2020 after another action plan meeting.
Abby Shelton, Community Development Director for the City of Owensboro confirmed at a city commission meeting Tuesday night that her staff is currently working on putting a plan together that’ll likely be funded through a federal block grant and home funds. These funds will be used to perform exterior repairs and rehabilitation needed for housing in that area of the city.
“It’s needed a lot of TLC, so we’re putting our heads together to make sure we can assess correctly and make sure the opportunities are there for investors and homeowners alike,” Shelton said.
The project for the northwest housing rehabilitation doesn’t yet have a name, and Shelton said her department must strategize a consolidated plan that would put the project five years out.
“We send that plan to HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development], HUD approves it and says, ‘Okay, so you’re going to put this much money into this area,’” Shelton said. “It’s a low-to-moderate income area, and 51 percent or more of our funds have to go to that kind of area of town.”
Historically, the local community development department has focused on exterior rehabs for older homes in areas of Owensboro that would benefit from much-needed updates. Shelton said, with this project, interior rehab is a possibility as well.
“[After exterior and interior rehab], then we’ll work with the Public Works department to make sure we can address dilapidated homes,” Shelton said. “If you drive around the French Street area…by the O.Z. Tyler area, you get a good idea of what we’re looking at.”
Because the area has some extensive property maintenance issues occurring between the different homes, Shelton said her team is taking a different approach to revitalization.
“The most exciting part is, that area is in an ‘opportunity zone,’ so that means not only are we going to put money into it federally and locally, but the federal government has deemed it a place where investors can come in and buy older, abandoned buildings, and then put the money back into it and realize those tax credits in the long run,” Shelton said.
Shelton said Owensboro has a lot of “low-hanging fruit,” and that she’s talked to several developers about pairing some of the historical tax credits with the revitalization her department is heading. She has spoken with investors and developers at the local, state and federal levels in an attempt to sweeten the pot and gain more traction for this incoming project.
One of the biggest components to the plan Shelton revealed is a new community center on the northwest side of town near the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County (formerly the Elizabeth Munday Center). Shelton also has plans to turn the current senior center into an affordable housing location for seniors in Daviess County and Owensboro.
Shelton said the community center would revitalize the area in many ways and hopes it could include a barbershop or a small store so that people living on the northwest side of the city could get valuable use from it as well.
“The city currently owns that property, so we’ve put a little bit of money into maintenance, and then what we’ll do is incentivize them to put out some low-income senior housing — just a step above housing authority — to serve a purpose, serve a need, and then have a ground-up facility built in front of that property if possible,” Shelton said. “We want to make it a community center, not really a senior center, so there might be a barbershop or a little commons shop where people can come in, and it’ll kind of build that area up.”
This revitalization comes on the heels of the near-complete Triplett Twist District that was also rehabilitated through the Community Development Department and its Area Redevelopment Plan. Other recent redevelopment projected completed by the department include Mechanicsville and Baptist Town, both in the downtown area.
The northwest area will be just outside of the downtown development district toward Ewing Court on the southern side of Fourth Street.
“It’s our understanding that they’d build a community center from the ground-up. I think it’s huge,” said Dana Peveler, executive director of the Senior Community Center of Owensboro-Daviess County. “I think revitalizing that area is absolutely necessary, and I’m thrilled about it. We want to see this community center carry over for the next 60 to 70 years.”