Oakland Receives Grant Money, Planners Hear Community Suggestions


TOPEKA, Kansas (WIBW) -- Oakland residents are excited federal dollars are being invested into the community for improvements.

The requests of most of the residents were focused on specific areas.

Because of an application put in by the Oakland Neighborhood Improvement Association, the city of Topeka chose the area to receive grant money to make improvements to the area.

Thursday evening's meeting at Sacred Heart Church was to go over the neighborhood plan that was created in 2004, the neighborhood's achievements since the, and to decide what future improvements to make with the money based on what the community needs. The grant, given by the Stages of Resource Targeting, or SORT, will address housing and infrastructure, two of the main issues people want fixed.

Since 2004, through Empowerment Grants given by Housing and Neighborhood Development, the community has seen a list of changes:

*Streetscape improvements (sidewalk and curb)
*The old Burlington Northern Santa Fe office building was converted into a senior housing complex
*Park improvements
*Oakland Community Center marquee
*Chase and State street schools are connected
*Murals on buildings as enhancements to the neighborhood identity

Neighborhood planners Dan Warner and Susan Gelvin went over those points, and showed graphs of which areas need the most improvement.

Below is some of the data the planners collected to help put into perspective what areas need the most improvement:

*Out of 1,465 acres of land, 40% is single-family residential. *There are slightly more home-owners than renters.
*Out of 2,484 properties, 513 have intermediate deficiencies and 383 are in deteriorating conditions
*The median appraised property values of 2013 for a single-family home is $56,765
- Multi-Family $315,744
-Two-Family $67,091
*Properties in the interior streets need more maintenance than properties in exterior streets

President of the Oakland NIA Frank Aguilar said the sidewalks are the number one issue, and that people think the money should be focused on walk area.

"The next thing is improvement of rental homes," Aguilar said. "Some of these home these people live in are really bad."

Some at the meeting expressed concern with houses violating codes and code inspectors not doing anything about it. The sentiment was shared with the number of vacant houses in the area.

The community is invited to join a steering committee to decide the target areas and what needs to be done. The committee will meet five times over the next ten weeks.

To join a planning committee or to get more information on what was announced at the meeting, contact Susan Gelvin at 785-368-3005 or email at sgelvin@topeka.org.


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