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Deteriorated Provo area making a comeback

The revitalized Franklin Neighborhood might be the place for a few more good people to call home.

After years of deterioration, one of Provo's oldest areas is making a comeback. Residents and local housing officials have rallied to drive out drug pushers, remodel crumbling houses and build a new sense of community pride in the west-side neighborhood.Neighborhood Housing Services of Provo broke ground Tuesday on HomePlace, the nonprofit organization's first affordable home ownership project. Six three-bedroom, two-car garage homes will be clustered on two acres at 509 S. 700 West. The new houses will replace an abandoned house and an old business that made cinder blocks.

"We feel like bringing in new homeowners will help stabilize and strengthen the area," said Linda Linstrum, Neighborhood Housing Services executive director. The $782,500 project will stop commercial incursion in the neighborhood and have a positive impact on surrounding neighborhoods, she said.

Neighborhood Housing Services of Provo was established in 1994 to pep up the sagging Franklin Neighborhood. One of its main goals is to encourage owner-occupied housing. Nearly two-thirds of area residents rent houses or apartments, some from landlords who live outside of Provo. Many of the houses and yards have fallen into disrepair.

The new homes will sell for $123,100. Housing officials are working to bring the monthly payment cost below $860. Five of the six houses will be sold to families with incomes below 80 percent of median. That's currently $33,450 a year for a family of four. Several local banks were instrumental in making the project possible.

"Creating affordable housing in this market is very, very challenging," Linstrum said.

The Neighborhood Housing Services staff will move their downtown Provo office to a refurbished 135-year-old house on the corner of the property where the new homes will be built. The house also will serve as a police neighborhood substation. After construction is complete next April or May, the housing agency will move to another location in the neighborhood.

Mayor George Stewart commended the Franklin Neighborhood for the "marvelous transformation" it has undergone the past several years. The area, he said, has renewed community spirit.

Neighborhood Housing Services organizes several painting and cleanup projects each year. It also holds contests and festivals to help residents get to know their neighbors.

George Knight, executive director of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp., based in Washington, D.C., said HomePlace will benefit everyone one in the community. He said it was exciting to see changes in the Franklin Neighborhood since his last visit four years ago.