April 24, 2014

Revitalization

Blight Fight

Bob Snell | 7/1/2006
On the banks of the St. Johns River east of downtown, Jacksonville's Arlington neighborhood is a first-ring suburb that once included a mixture of both solid middle-class and wealthier residents. Like many such suburbs, however, Arlington has experienced problems as growth made newer areas more attractive. The steady demographic shift to the exurbs of Jacksonville's Southside -- as well as northern St. Johns and Clay counties -- has created pockets of blight that now dot Arlington and have brought increases in crime and other social ills.

Mayor John Peyton's "Seeds of Change" initiative targets impoverished neighborhoods.

While city leaders have made major investments over the years in struggling inner-city neighborhoods, community advocates have long pushed for similar measures to improve the city's older suburbs. Those voices recently found a champion when Mayor John Peyton launched a $16-million initiative to "clean up and redevelop" Arlington and neighborhoods in the city's impoverished Northwest.

"We've reached a point where residents want to create their future, not just react to it," said Peyton as he unveiled "Seeds of Change. Growing Great Neighborhoods" in Arlington.

The plan kicks off with a comprehensive cleanup of street garbage (followed by weekly litter patrols) and $250,000 for landscaping. Peyton also proposes creating Neighborhood Enforcement Action Teams to deal with nuisance issues and conduct an inventory of "underperforming city-owned property ... to determine if it can be sold, donated or better used within the city."

The program also includes forming community study circles to encourage dialogue about neighborhood issues, stepped-up police patrols, a summer employment and training program for students and $5,000 grants to qualified homebuyers to help with down payments when they buy in targeted areas.

Tags: Northeast, Housing/Construction

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