City officials on Thursday unveiled a multimillion-dollar redevelopment plan to renovate a blighted neighborhood through home improvement loans and by tearing down 20 small apartment buildings to make way for new housing.
In a campaign that they have dubbed “Operation High Desert Storm,” city officials are trying to remake a 95-acre neighborhood north of Avenue I and west of Sierra Highway. The area had deteriorated chiefly because of the cluster of crime-ridden, four-unit apartments along Cedar Avenue, city officials and sheriff’s deputies said.
Although the city first targeted the area in October, Thursday was the first time that city officials spelled out details of how they plan to transform the neighborhood.
“We intend to change the overall character of that part of the community,” City Manager Jim Gilley said. The campaign will be the largest renovation in Lancaster, with officials estimating that the effort will take several years.
The city has already budgeted $4.75 million for the campaign. That figure is likely to grow under the plan spelled out Thursday, but Gilley said it will be several weeks before he can estimate a total cost.
The project is being funded with state redevelopment money.
After demolishing the 20 Cedar Avenue apartment buildings, the city plans to use the land to help assemble a 30-acre parcel. The property will be offered to a private developer willing to build about 150 homes, affordable to median-income buyers.
So far, city officials have bought, or are in the process of buying, 10 of the targeted fourplex apartments for a total cost estimated at $1.8 million. That amount includes expenses to relocate tenants.
The city will now begin buying the remaining 10 buildings.
Lancaster officials also plan to make $500,000 in rehabilitation loans available to owners of 61 duplexes on Cedar Avenue and adjoining Corkwood Avenue. Owners will be able to apply for loans of up to $20,000 at below-market interest rates if they agree to rent to low-income tenants.
In addition, city officials said, they will expand the redevelopment area to include an additional 17 acres along Date and Elm avenues, west of Cedar Avenue. Owners of property between Avenues H-8 and H-12 will be offered rehabilitation loans of up to $15,000, under the plan.