Blighted property program aims to revitalize Bristol, Virginia

POSTED: 5:49 PM Aug 14 2013   UPDATED: 5:09 PM Aug 14 2013
BRISTOL, Va. -

A transformation is in the works to make Bristol, Virginia a better place to live and look.

A program that began about two years ago is working to turn dilapidated buildings into revitalized homes and neighborhoods.

They're broken, burnt, and blighted. "Too numerous to count," said Bristol, Virginia Mayor Guy Odum.

Dilapidated homes have been eyesores, and even problems, in Bristol, Virginia for years. "You get varmints of all kinds that come and live in it, and attract that kind of thing," Odum said of a wildlife that often gets into the old homes.

601 Moore Street is an empty lot now, but it was once one of those blighted homes. Now its future looks bright thanks to a relatively new state law that allows Bristol, Virginia to establish a Blighted Property Donation Program. "[It was] a home that really could not be fixed. It had a fire inside that destroyed most of it, so [the owners] gave that to the city in lieu of the taxes," explained Odum.

The city can then tear the disrepaired home down and give the property to a developer; in this case, the Bristol Redevelopment Housing Authority.

BRHA Executive Director Dave Baldwin told News 5 their plan is to build a duplex that looks more like a large, single-family home that fits the style of the neighborhood. "It will be one that any family in the community would be proud to live in," said Baldwin. "It's going to be probably the best-looking house on the block."

But city officials have their eyes on home restoration, as well.

There's already a success story in Bristol, Virginia. Officials told us the Solar Hill community has completely turned itself around by revitalizing some of these old homes.

Florence Fracarossi, who has given her Solar Hill home over seven years of TLC, said the renovations have made her community closer, and safer, and cleaner.

She hopes others, will follow in the same direction of her own neighborhood. "If people don't take care of one house, it seems like it’s the 'snowball effect'. [People think] 'he doesn't take care of it, why should I?' You know, and it becomes an eyesore," said Fracarossi.

The ultimate goal is to build community pride and reduce crime.

That's why, one-by-one, Bristol is striving for a city-wide facelift. "We've torn down about 40 houses so far in this project, and there's more to be done," said Odum.

That's at least 20 more, to be exact, in hopes of restoring Bristol’s beauty.

Bristol, Virginia officials told us they are also trying to work with property owners of vacant commercial buildings that have become eyesores in hopes of making those properties more attractive and marketable for prospective buyers.