Jun 272014

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Two new and free blight-fighting tools will be unveiled at an event in Zion City this Saturday (June 28), and Councilmember LaToya Cantrell will be featured as a guest speaker.

The two new blight-fighting tools are a blight resource guide and a blight organizing toolkit. The unveiling will also include a new park in Zion City, developed on formerly blighted properties.

For more information, see the full news release.

Despite welcome recent progress, blight remains a substantial problem in New Orleans. Residents, neighborhoods and community groups still struggle to access the resources they need to combat blight. Further, many also find it challenging to navigate the complex processes related to blighted properties.

To enable New Orleanians to be more successful in addressing blight, two free new tools will be unveiled on June 28. The release of these tools will take place at Greater St. James Church, 4225 Erato Street in Zion City. Councilmember LaToya Cantrell will be the featured speaker, along with representatives of the various organizations involved in preparing the new blight-fighting tools. The official program for the event will begin at 11:00 AM, and will be preceded by a community workshop to create attractive park benches out of donated and repurposed materials such as wooden palettes. Music and refreshments will be included. The event will take place rain or shine.

The two new tools are a Blight Resource Guide and a Blight Organizing Toolkit.

The Blight Resource Guide is a comprehensive compendium of resources available to individuals, neighborhood associations and community groups to address the ongoing problem of blighted properties in New Orleans. The Guide is meant to provide a starting point for New Orleans residents and community organizations to learn about the City’s code enforcement process and about the resources available to them. Community resources include governmental assistance, nonprofit agencies and programs, and private sector resources. The Blight Resource Guide is a joint venture of the Committee for a Better New Orleans and the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, as part of their partnership in the Housing Community of Interest pilot program of the New Orleans Citizen Participation Project. An online version of the Blight Resource Guide, with ongoing updates, will be established and maintained as part of this project. Support for this project came from the Open Society Foundations and First NBC bank.

The Blight Organizing Toolkit provides training to neighborhood leaders to help them reduce blight in their communities. Leaders will learn about a process that has helped other New Orleans communities develop successful strategies for dealing with blighted properties: community mapping, property research, real estate market analysis, blight-related policy basics, and action planning. The Toolkit also provides example projects with budgets, so neighborhood leaders can examine the resources needed to accomplish an individual project. The Toolkit will be available online starting June 28, 2014 at http://nolablighttoolkit.com; the authors will also be providing in-person trainings from the Toolkit during Fall 2014. Dates and times for these trainings will be announced on the Toolkit website and through partner organizations. The Toolkit was created by Miller Urban Consulting with support from the New Zion City Preservation Association and the Broadmoor Development Corporation. Development of this resource was funded through a TOGETHER grant from the Foundation for Louisiana.

Also being unveiled at the event will be a new community green space and park in Zion City, being developed on formerly blighted properties. Last year New Zion City Preservation Association (NZCPA) approached the Land Trust for Louisiana (LTL) to assist in transforming several vacant, blighted lots into a community green space. With this inaugural project of LTL’s Urban Land Conservation Initiative, Zion City residents are hopeful that the first and only park in the neighborhood will attract additional investment, draw new home owners to the neighborhood, and support the implementation of water management strategies to decrease street flooding, some of which will be used in the new park. LTL’s unique role in community partnerships is to hold land, oftentimes donated, for public benefit in perpetuity.

“The blight that plagues our city is a health issue, a public safety issue, an economic development issue, and it impacts the quality of life of everyone who lives here,” said Councilmember Cantrell. “While government works to do its part to fight blight, it truly takes the whole community working together to solve this problem. These two new tools will be tremendously helpful for individual residents and for communities to tackle blighted properties in their neighborhoods.”

Community members, neighborhood leaders and the media are invited to attend the event on June 28. Copies of the Blight Resource Guide will be distributed, as well as information on accessing and using the Blight Organizing Toolkit.

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