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Like nearly all thriving urban neighborhoods, University City has parcels and properties that seem “stuck” — derelict, abandoned, underutilized, neglected, or otherwise not fulfilling their potential. These properties can have a devastating impact on their surrounding communities and, to the City, they can represent safety hazards, uncollected taxes, and costly demolition fees.
In 2011, University City District (UCD) established Project Rehab to transform problem properties into neighborhood assets. Working through a partnership of neighborhood groups and City agencies, Project Rehab works creatively and comprehensively to unlock the economic potential of vacant and underutilized properties and to leverage private investment in their redevelopment. Since the program’s inception, Project Rehab has unlocked over $7 million dollars of real estate value in formerly problem properties, creating an additional $13 million dollars in value for adjacent properties.
About Project Rehab
University City District builds and maintains a database of problem properties; the list comes from physical surveys by UCD staff, input from community organizations, and city agencies, including the Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I).
Once a property is listed in the problem properties database, UCD works to determine ownership using a variety of online and public resources. This process is rarely straightforward; public data for vacant properties is often incomplete or non-existent. Some properties may have been abandoned by absentee landowners, while others are ensnared in estate problems resulting from owners who died intestate.
Next, UCD diligently establishes contact with the property owner and works to determine the reasons for the property’s status. Did a well-meaning owner run out of resources and abandon a property? In some cases, UCD will pass updated contact information to City agencies, with the hopes of incenting a response. Once UCD is in conversation with the property owner, UCD works to develop a course of action, which might include:
- Financing Working in partnership with local banking institutions, UCD drafts and develops financing packages for owners who want to finance the rehabilitation of the property.
- Rehabilitation UCD has developed a list of licensed contractors who are experienced with the rehabilitation of distressed properties. UCD staff provides support and knowledge to owners throughout the rehabilitation process, including attainment of all required permits, licenses and inspections necessary.
- Sale UCD has built a network of realtors who can support owners who decide to sell.
- Zoning UCD connects owners with local zoning attorneys and community organizations to work through the zoning process.
- Outside the box strategies From assisting a family with opening an estate, untangling a title issue to developing strategic partnerships with legal clinics to ensure that owners are well represented while seeking equity partners for development, Project Rehab works with each owner towards his/her rehabilitation goals – no matter the issue surrounding the property.