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Community revitalization is as important as new construction, maybe more so, according to Robert Cymerman, the director of community development for the Town of Tonawanda.

"Five million dollars of Community Development Block Grant funds has been spent over a six-year period to provide the infrastructure for more than 600 rehabilitated units," he said. "Over five miles of new water mains, storm sewers, drainage, streets and curbs have been installed; hundreds of trees planted."

Two mini-parks have been created and the Sheridan Parkside Elementary School has been rehabbed, too. It has become a community center for the Parkside residents.

But the real story is the Rental Rehabilitation Program that served as the key element in stabilizing the Parkside Village Courts neighborhood. While the block grant fund provided the resources necessary to repair the infrastructure, the HUD rental program provided much of the funding to upgrade the deteriorated and substandard rental units in Parkside.

The town also used the Section 312, Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation and Section 8 Existing Rental Assistance programs to rehabilitate rental housing in Parkside.

To date, approximately 330 rental units have been rehabbed with $2 million coming from the HUD program and more than $500,000 from private investors. "The whole plan would have failed without the private investor working with the public sector," continued Cymerman.

Town Supervisor Ronald Moline stressed the people-factor. "We are making the program work for people. The rental rehab program provides an opportunity for people to have a better family environment through a renewed home."

Developer/investor Eugene Jason of Properties Unlimited agrees. His company got involved in the rental rehab program in 1983; today more than 100 units have been revitalized in the Parkside Village area.

"We wanted to create an affordable environment," Jason said. "Each unit has an average of $8,500 worth of improvements -- both to exteriors and interiors. Yet we have been able to maintain the 'street rent' of $260 to $280."

Jason's company has tackled two, four, and six-unit buildings. Each has new siding and roofing, new energy-efficient windows and steel entry doors.

Interiors were completely gutted. The mechanical systems checked including electrical wiring and plumbing. New products include drywall for walls and ceiling, cabinets and sinks for kitchens and baths, even interior doors, trim mouldings and carpeting.

"A few units remain and we are looking for new sites to challenge," Jason said. For more information, call Properties Unlimited at 684-7331.

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