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Jones to head Chambersburg neighborhood rebuilding effort

Borough named 'Elm Street Community,' gets $300,000 grant

Borough named 'Elm Street Community,' gets $300,000 grant

December 28, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. ? Jack V. Jones, president of Building Our Pride in Chambersburg (BOPIC), has been named to head a program to rebuild the neighborhoods surrounding the borough's downtown business district.

Chambersburg was designated an "Elm Street Community" by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and approved for a $300,000 grant for the first year of the five-year program to revitalize the area, according to a press release from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce.

The grant will be administered through Downtown Chambersburg Inc., according to the release.

Jones, who has spent two years as a volunteer helping develop the Elm Street plan, said $250,000 of that is for direct revitalization efforts, with the remainder for administration and support.

"I can see a lot of potential, a lot more than in the basic plan," Jones said Wednesday.

Elm Street is not a geographic designation, but a state program for improving deteriorating downtown neighborhoods.

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Goal is to increase home ownership

The goal is to bring new life to an economically distressed area that includes the Franklin County Housing Authority and Southgate Mall, as well as along South Main and South Second streets, Jones said. One initiative is to encourage home ownership.

"Sixty-seven percent of the people in that area rent," said Jones, 63, who retired from Pitney-Bowes five years ago as a senior accounts representative. "A great majority of the community wants the opportunity to purchase their own homes."

"If you can increase the home ownership in a particular sector, you will increase the value of that neighborhood," Jones said. Toward that end, Jones said he will enlist the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency to put on workshops for residents who want to go from renting to owning.

"In order to be designated an Elm Street Community, the community needed to come together and say, 'This is what we'd like to see done,'" Jones said.

South Main, South Second targeted for sidewalk upgrades

Other priorities in the plan are facade and sidewalk improvements, and creating a clean, green and safe neighborhood, he said.

The various Elm Street committees have been planning for 2008, which he said will target South Main and South Second streets for facade and sidewalk improvements, but $250,000 only will go so far.

"The first thing that hit me is we need additional moneys ... We could spend $250,000 in the first month," Jones said.

Consultants to the Elm Street project have provided a resource guide to funding sources, and Jones' goal is to raise $1 million per year for revitalization.

Jones, who received the Mike Waters Citizen of the Year Award for community service, has been involved with BOPIC for eight years, and it was that involvement with the summer enrichment program and other community organizations helping hundreds of children that led to his being selected to head up Elm Street.

"One person can't do that. It takes a team of people," Jones said of the volunteers who make the organizations go. "All I do is think outside the box."

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