The president of local nonprofit Blueprint Communities presented an opportunity zone investment report prepared by a national community and economic development consulting firm Tuesday night at the New Castle City Council meeting.
"Basically, I feel like it tells the best story it possibly can with the information that we had available," said Kim Koller-Jones, the president of Blueprint Communities and executive director of Hoyt Art Center in New Castle. "I think it can be a great resource moving forward as you’re looking to writing grants."
The report, which was funded by Blueprint through grant money, was prepared by Fourth Economy of Pittsburgh. It's called "Rising Tides in New Castle," and outlines the region's story, demographics and jobs as well as investment opportunities such as the Temple Building, Main Street Clothiers, Cascade Galleria, the Stritmaters Building and the Clark Buildings.
"This can always be updated and added to," said Koller-Jones, who noted since the report was completed that Cascade Galleria has been sold.
Koller-Jones noted the consulting firm suggested only including "shovel ready" sites instead of properties like the former U.S. Post Office which would take work to simply stabilize.
"How can we use this information to our advantage and make it look attractive to investors?" asked Koller-Jones.
According to the report, although New Castle has seen a decline due to disappearance of manufacturing, "signs of resurgence are emerging."
Koller-Jones also cited multiple areas of city that have had "quite a few millions" invested in them such as the 10,000 Friends project on the South Side, DON Services's neighborhood revitalization project on the Lower East Side and Ellwood Quality Steel’s new $60 million facility.
Other investment areas highlighted in the report called "tracts" include downtown, the area around Enterprise Park, single-family homes and commercial properties along East Washington Street and the South Side Commercial District.
"Kim, I know you’ve done a lot of homework, and I appreciate what you’ve done," said Councilman Tim Fulkerson.
Fulkerson recounted a phone call he received from a real estate agent who told him there was potential buyer for the former Laniga's Pub building, but didn't have the capital to purchase it.
"Some of these so-called investors, and I’m not saying the people you met with, but they think they can just buy a building … that then they can walk into city hall and think that we got all kinds of grant money or your organization might have grant money, and I’m trying to tell these people it don’t work that way," said Fulkerson.
Opportunities zones offer three tax incentives for those who invest capital gain in low-income communities. Koller-Jones told the council after the report was completed in October, tours were given to three developers from Pittsburgh.