Kevyn Bollinger never thought he’d wake up in a crack house.
The hallmarks of Manchester’s West Granite neighborhood included narcotics, vagrancy, and vandalism. These issues were exacerbated by the foreclosure crisis which hastened the cycle.
“I was discouraged about that neighborhood,” says West Granite Street landlord Lee LeBlanc.” It was hard to rent out my apartments because of the state of the other buildings.”
Those “other buildings” were a group of dilapidated and abandoned apartments at the corner of West and Granite. Some were rife with crime. Others marked with Xs, so firefighters wouldn’t risk their safety going in should the buildings burn. All of them were eyesores.
“When it looks like you live in the ghetto, you act like you live in the ghetto,” says Pastor Richard Clegg, who owns a home and operates a church nearby. “So improving the appearance of some of the properties would be a big benefit as well.”
CDFA invested in NeighborWorks® Greater Manchester’s efforts to rebuild West Granite. First, CDFA awarded $274,500 in tax credits to a home ownership program. Then, it granted a combined $3,240,000 to the revitalization through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program – a public/private initiative from HUD to upgrade distressed, foreclosed properties.
In West Granite, five properties were rehabbed and two were razed. The results were a newly beautified, less dense neighborhood. Even with the greater challenges in the housing market, the immediate area has seen a higher home ownership rate and a lower rental vacancy rate. Crime is also noticeably down.
“When it was bad, it was bad,” says LeBlanc, a former cop. “There is absolutely no question that revitalization worked.”
Now, West Granite is filled with residents committed to long-term occupancy and the well-being of the neighborhood. Residents like Kevyn Bollinger, who purchased what had previously been a notorious crack house.
On this day, he arranges the flowers outside of his multifamily home and greets Mayor Ted Gatsas. “I think people really appreciate having a nicer area,” Bollinger says. “I get comments all the time, ‘Wow this looks really nice’ whenever I’m out there doing any gardening.”
Reminded of his home’s dodgy history, Bollinger laughs. “I think after being gutted down to the studs, it can’t be called a crack house anymore.”