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Nonprofit to Launch to Tackle Blight, Stabilize Neighborhoods - Go Dan River

Danville officials are getting closer to starting up a nonprofit group focused on neighborhood stabilization and preventing blight. The Danville Neighborhood Development Corporation will open up in the next few weeks in the Center for Housing Education building at Franklin and Monument streets, City Manager Ken Larking said. “We felt like it would be a good complementary use of that building,” Larking said. An executive director has been hired within the last month to lead the organization, said Deputy City Manager Earl Reynolds. The city hopes to announce who it is in the next couple of weeks, Reynolds said. The city has committed an initial first-year investment of $200,000, with part of the money to be used to map out a strategic plan during the organization’s first several months, Reynolds said. Officials will also come up with a first-year budget for the group. Board members, the new executive director and city officials will travel to Youngstown, Ohio, to take a look at its Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation. It’s considered one of the best models on the East Coast for such a group, Reynolds said. A program to help streamline Danville’s blight removal process was approved by the General Assembly and Gov. Terry McAuliffe in 2016. The measure allowed Danville to create Virginia’s first land bank program enabling the city to auction off properties and streamline the blight removal process in the city. The corporation will hopefully be that land bank, Reynolds said. “It gives us another tool to address blight in our city,” City Councilman Lee Vogler, who proposed the legislation to Del. Danny Marshall, R-Danville, for the 2016 General Assembly session, told the Register & Bee in February. The group was recommended by a housing study — by CZB, LLC — commissioned by the city in 2015. It has the capabilities and flexibility to act more quickly, concentrating their efforts on stabilizing neighborhoods and improving houses throughout the city, Larking said. The corporation also is able to leverage private money. It will get city money to start off, but will hopefully be able to handle future efforts on its own, Larking said. It would be partners with the city, with Danville playing a role through regulations and enforcement, Larking said. The land banking legislation enables the city to hold property and resell it to developers and new homeowners with the goal of responsible homeownership, Larking said. Volger, City Councilman James Buckner and then-Mayor Sherman Saunders pushed for the legislation, with Marshall leading the effort at the state level, Larking said. “The corporation will be able to use the legislation as a tool to meet its mission,” Larking said. Danville has about $1 million requested for blight eradication in its 2017-18 budget.

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