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How One Agency Is Working To "Bring Vitality" Back To Blighted Neighborhoods

Ann Thompson
This Evanston home, with construction equipment outside, is being rehabbed by The Port.

The crime rate is dropping in Evanston as agencies like The Port rehab and sell previously vacant houses in that neighborhood and others.

In fact, when Eric Hunn, owner of Hunn's Construction, went to work on a rundown property in Walnut Hills for the economic development agency, he found the end result suprising. "We pulled up to the home and there were 25 drug dealers hanging around," he recalls. "There were bullet holes in the house. We were a little worried about even working there. After we finished the house one day we looked around and you didn't even see any drug dealers."

Cincinnati Police tell The Port's CEO Laura Brunner crime is down 40 percent in Evanston and officers say they see joggers again on the street.

Helping the effort, The Port announced October 1 it had received a $1 million loan from Greater Cincinnati Foundation to rehab foreclosed, vacant residential properties into homes ready for sale. Two non-profits run by The Port, the Hamilton County Landbank and the Homesteading and Urban Redevelopment Corporation, or HURC, are borrowers.

Credit Ann Thompson / WVXU
From left: Eric Hunn of Hunn's Construction; Robert Killins with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation; and Laura Brunner with The Port stand inside 1650 Jonathon in Evanston.

"What we want to do is come in, in a very concentrated way, inside one neighborhood because that's the way you bring back vitality to fix up all the homes in a neighborhood, not just one or two of them," Brunner says.

Brunner talked to WVXU while standing in a vacant home in Evanston at 1650 Jonathon Ave. The Port has rehabbed more than two dozen homes in that neighborhood and has its sights on others. Robert Killins is with the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, which is funding the revitalization.

"We'll be taking back excitement and continue to find ways to support what The Port is doing," he says.

Even D.J. Weaver was excited. He lives next door to the 100-year-old house being rehabbed that had sat vacant off and on since 2010. "It will bring more life to the neighborhood," he says.

The Port will continue its work in Evanston, Walnut Hills, Bond Hill and Roselawn. REACH home rehab has started work in Price Hill and The Port will soon. The two homes on Jonathon The Port is fixing up will be marketed through a partnership with Catholic Charities Southwestern Ohio.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.