Cobbtown neighborhood targeted for rehabilitation

Published 2:43 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Langston Commons neighborhood was part of a $1.4 million Community Development Block Grant project in Franklin, which was funded in 2006. ANDREW FAISON/TIDEWATER NEWS



FRANKLIN—A portion of Franklin’s Cobbtown neighborhood has been targeted for a potential $1.4 million grant to rehabilitate 20-30 homes belonging to low- and moderate-income families.

The Franklin Community Needs Assessment Team recently voted unanimously to focus on the area between South Street and the CSX Railroad from Roosevelt to Stonewall Street.

Funding would come from the federal Community Development Block Grant program awarded to states by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“This grant is a good thing for the community,” said Franklin Community Development Director Donald Goodwin. “We have an aging housing stock, and this is an opportunity for the city to provide assistance to its citizens who can’t afford these improvements.”

Franklin received the grant in 2006 when it rehabilitated a different portion of the Cobbtown area. During that process the city was forced to redevelop the area known as Langston Commons. Goodwin said the houses in that area we so badly dilapidated that it was more cost effective to redevelop than to rehabilitate.

“We want to make sure people understand we don’t see any major deficiencies in the neighborhood we are focusing on that would warrant a redevelopment like that,” Goodwin said.

Needs Assessment team member Thomas Council favors helping resident fix their homes.

“I am against any redevelopment, but my understanding this money is just to rehabilitate,” Council said.

To be considered for the grant, the city has to go through two preliminary phases. The first phase included receiving a $15,000 grant, which was used to hire Brian Reagan of Community Planning Partners Inc. to assess buildings from the outside for potential rehabilitation to come up with a target area. The second phase would involve using a $30,000 grant to pay for assessors to find homeowners interested in participating.

“Not every home in the current target area will be done,” said City Manager Randy Martin said. “At that point in the project, we have to get the input of property owners because this project is completely voluntary for the homeowners.”

The objective is to develop viable communities by providing decent housing and expanding economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents.

“It is a very competitive program for limited funding; the program itself is significant on a national basis,” Martin said. “We have to go after the federal and state funds. No community with our demographics would be able to would be able to take care of this problem on their own.”

Unlike cities like Virginia Beach, who receives block grants from HUD every year, Franklin has to go through a three-part application process because its population is less than 50,000.

If anyone has questions, contact Goodwin at 562-8580.