Building hope in blighted neighborhoods

Neighborhood Hope

BY FRANK DROUZAS, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — On a drizzly, overcast morning, the nonprofit organization Builders of Hope provided bright rays of hope for making affordable housing available to struggling communities in St. Pete.

Members of the group along with St. Petersburg city officials gathered on June 11 in front of 4200 14th Ave. S., the location of one of about 70 homes the group has purchased for renovation and refurbishment. The organization has spent 1.6 million dollars on these blighted homes, which are in the Midtown and Childs Park neighborhoods.

Though there was an informal ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the house on 14th Avenue, clearly there is much work to be done on these dilapidated abodes. Builders of Hope would like to have the homes fixed up and back on the market in the next few months.

“This is a prime example of a neighborhood that has some terrific homes and terrific homeowners and terrific renters who deserve to have the resources to improve the community,” said Lew Schulman, president and CEO of Builders of Hope, which is headquartered in Raleigh, N.C.

Mayor Rick Kriseman, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin and other council officials including Councilman Wengay Newton and Director of Urban Affairs Nikki Gaskin-Capehart took several minutes to look around inside the decayed house. They viewed some of the empty, desolate rooms and kitchen to get an idea of the starting point for the renovations. A stale smell peculiar to tenantless houses hung heavy in the air, mingling strongly with the Florida humidity.

“I can’t thank the folks from Builders of Hope enough for investing not only their money but their hearts and souls in this community,” Kriseman said. “We’re talking about 70 plus homes that are going to be renovated and become safe for our residents, a place that they can call their home, that they can take pride in and feel a part of this community.”

Schulman thanked Kriseman along with members of city council, including Councilman Karl Nurse, who Schulman called the “impetus” for the organization in being here.

“This project really grew out of a conversation last year about another particular area,” Schulman explained, “and we were fortunate to stay in contact and find this particular opportunity that allowed us to show you what our mission is.”

Council members hope that this will attract interest from a collection of other nonprofits, looking to get neighborhoods in better shape.

“It’s a real pleasure working with a city that understands the needs of the citizens and can help to provide that,” Schulman stated.

To reach Frank Drouzas, email fdrouzas@theweeklychallenger.com

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