Sure, the money allocated to the city of Independence through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants have accomplished just what the program’s name says.

Sure, the money allocated to the city of Independence through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program grants have accomplished just what the program’s name says.

But it’s about so much more than stabilizing physical buildings, city officials said Monday night. In the aftermath of the mortgage crisis of 2008, Independence has seen increased property values and a pooling of resources to improve neighborhoods deeply affected by foreclosed and abandoned housing and residential properties.

Initially, Independence was awarded more than $1.9 million for housing redevelopment, demolition and redevelopment within neighborhoods. Many communities that received NSP funds chose to rehabilitate scattered locations, said Jennifer Clark, the city’s Community Development Department director, while Independence took a concentrated “one block at a time” approach.

“Many projects are located within close proximity to each other,” Clark said. “This is because it is necessary to have a concentration of effort to maximize the outcomes. ... Although a much more difficult approach, the focusing of funding through multiple agencies and projects has had a much larger impact to each neighborhood.”

This spring, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Kansas City region awarded the city a 2011 Best Practice Award in recognition of outstanding achievement for the Norledge Place redevelopment project.

And the recognition doesn’t end there. Because of local NSP-funded efforts, the National League of Cities also has chosen Independence for its Showcase of Cities at a November conference in Phoenix.

Local NSP project partners include NorthWest Communities Development Corporation, Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity, 12 Blocks West, Neighborhood Housing Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the EPA Brownfield Job Training Program and multiple city departments, such as Community Development, Public Works and Independence Power & Light.

“It’s not just about the city trying to work on its own,” City Manager Robert Heacock said.  

The NSP-funded projects include the following:

Norledge Place: Since 2008, this project includes the completion of six demolished properties, three rehabilitated properties and the construction of three new houses, becoming the “gold standard” for reinvestment, Clark said.

“This effort was started before the Neighborhood Stabilization Program was even envisioned,” she said. “However, it was evident early on that to have a successful, vibrant community, more than just a few rehabs would be necessary. ... The neighborhood was not stable.”

Property value data are one of the biggest rewards out of the Norledge Place efforts on Brookside, Hardy and Ash avenues, Clark said. Before the project started, NWCDC officials were told that they wouldn’t be able to sell a property in the neighborhood for more than $90,000.

Now, appraisals are ranging from the low- to mid-$130,000s, Clark said.

The project’s second phase will start in 2012.

Overton Avenue: In November 2010, 12 Blocks West officials and neighbors happily witnessed the demolition a three-story, 12-unit vacant, foreclosed apartment building at 710 S. Overton Ave. One new home has already been constructed in place of where the vacant building once stood, and another will be constructed.

Nearby, at 9701 E. U.S. 24, seven apartment units will replace a blighted and foreclosed apartment building. The new properties aim to benefit households that are at or below 50 percent of the median income.

Scattered site projects: These projects have taken place in neighborhoods identified by the city as needing limited assistance to stabilize, Clark said. About $2.9 million has gone toward such projects across the city.

Sixteen properties were acquired in 2010, and since then, seven properties have been rehabilitated and nine new homes were constructed.

District 1 Council Member Marcie Gragg, whose represented area includes a majority of the NSP-funded efforts, said the projects represent more than just fixing up housing – they also signify a rebuilding of neighborhoods and a pooling of available resources.

“I’m not sure that folks in Independence realize what an impact we have been able to make in northwest Independence through Norledge and Overton and through the efforts of the federal dollars that have come to us,” Gragg said. “They should take a drive down 24 Highway to the western city limits and see what we’ve been able to do in these partnerships.”