Three abandoned homes are either being razed or refurbished as part of a revitalization effort in northwestern Independence.

Twelve Blocks West, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promote safe and stable neighborhoods throughout Eastern Jackson County, began demolishing two deserted homes along the 700 block of Overton Avenue in Independence Monday afternoon. The knocked down homes will soon be replaced with two new single-family houses, said 12 Blocks West Chairman Charlie Shields. Another abandoned home adjacent to the razed residences, 711 S. Overton Avenue, will also be renovated and available to own in the near future.

“The goal is to build better and more efficient homes that will attract long-term neighbors,” he said.

Bringing stability to this particular neighborhood, he added, is key to foster a safe and positive area to live. “These (yet-to-be built) homes are not rental properties, but for homeowners.”

But this is not the first time the Overton Avenue neighborhood has had improvement projects. Just across the street from the razed houses, Shields said, two homes were built nearly two summers ago.

Fannie Mae Turner, who said she has lived at her home near the razing project since the early 1950s, welcomes the idea of 12 Blocks West enhancing her neighborhood block.

“I think it’s great,” she said. “It (the neighborhood) has improved since they built those green homes.”

“Before that, there was a lot of coming and going in the neighborhood,” Turner’s husband, Jude Christensen, added about the first built homes of the neighborhood improvement initiative.

Funding for the Overton Avenue renovation project primarily comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program Grants, Shields said. He added that 12 Blocks West serves as a “conduit” of sorts between the federal grant program and the city of Independence. The public-private partnership has been exclusively improving neighborhoods in northwest Independence since its inception in 2008, the same year six Kansas City district schools were annexed by the Independence School District. Shields also said what inspired the organization’s creation was a neighborhood rebuilding effort based in Atlanta, Georgia.

According to the 12 Blocks West website, Bob Lupton, president of FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, visited Kansas City to speak about how churches can help rebuild neighborhoods and empower the poor.

“Lupton discussed clothes closets, food pantries, housing, crime, creating mixed-income neighborhoods and the suburbanization of poverty,” the website wrote.

As for future 12 Blocks West projects, Shields said it is unknown what’s slated next at this point and the partnership’s current focus is on the three home projects at Overton Avenue.

For more information about the 12 Blocks West Initiative, visit  .