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Sunday, 05 August 2012 18:42

Holland nonprofit wants to bring back blighted neighborhood

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Holland nonprofit wants to bring back blighted neighborhood Courtesy photo
HOLLAND — The effort to make communities more vibrant and connected can spur local governments to think outside of the box.

Some could argue that's what happened in June when the Holland City Council approved the acquisition of two properties under the Ottawa County tax foreclosure program. The city acquired the properties for $26,700 not for itself, but on behalf of 3sixty, a nonprofit community development organization located on the city's east side.

The commercial property located at 29 West 16th Street currently houses Petrino's Pizza, while the residential property at 448 College Avenue remains vacant.

With the help of an anonymous $25,000 donation, 3sixty put down a deposit, signed a purchase agreement and expected to close on the properties in mid-July.

A long-time supporter of community development projects such as Eight Day Farm, 3sixty's initial goal is to act as a better landlord to Petrino's Pizza, said Brian Wolthuis, the director and pastor at the organization.

Wolthuis said the previous landlords never put any money back into the building, which had fallen into disrepair. Petrino's has plans to eventually move to a new location, but while the business is still a viable tenant, Wolthuis said 3sixty wants to help the pizzeria continue its solid business by renovating the exterior and un-condemning the upstairs apartments.

When the pizzeria does move, Wolthuis and the group's organizers want to have a strategic plan in place for the property. Currently, the group is in the process of vetting several potential repurposing projects, he said. Potential uses include a possible artisan market, but one sure piece of any redevelopment will be establishing some office space for 3sixty. The nonprofit also plans to create a community center, Wolthuis added.

3sixty employs a growing number of interns, and the renovated residential property will serve as their living space, he said. The space will also serve as a home base for the organization's tool and equipment-lending cooperative.

"Having a space for interns to live is valuable because they can become part of the fabric of community they work in," Wolthuis said.

While Wolthuis knows the properties will need extensive work, he has not yet been able to determine the exact cost of both renovations.

"We definitely didn't over-think it," he said. "We had to accept a number of unknowns."

Still, he is confident the organization and its community partners will be supportive in that effort.

"We've been partners and supporters in the community for a long time," he said. "Our current game plan is to find resources to accomplish this rehabilitation."

Wolthuis said the organization is in the process of applying for two grants and has engaged in conversations with a number of other potential partners, including a lumberyard with which Wolthuis has worked extensively. The organization is also learning whether or not it is eligible for any potential tax credits.

Over the next couple of years, Wothuis hopes his organization can eventually purchase a full corner of the block, creating a well-established community outlet.

"There are a lot more ways I think we can practically engage with our entire neighborhood and our entire community," Wolthuis said. "This will definitely help us accomplish that."

If 3sixty hadn't been out in front of this opportunity, the buildings would have gone to auction in August, he said.

Read 2093 times Last modified on Sunday, 05 August 2012 22:28

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