New push to rehab old, abandoned houses in St. Petersburg - FOX 13 News

New push to rehab old, abandoned houses in St. Petersburg

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

There are roughly 800 boarded up houses in St. Petersburg right now, and they are usually not appreciated by surrounding neighbors.

There used to be one behind Rose Couch's home in the Palmetto Park neighborhood.

"We fought with them, the police, we fought with housing, we fought with them, it was about three or four years before they even tore that house down," Couch recalled Tuesday afternoon. "It brings the neighborhood down."

Her neighborhood association's president confirms Couch's opinion, even though police actions have reduced illegal uses of the boarded up properties.

"Yeah they're sitting there, but still they're sore because, nobody's going in there, they're not cleaning the property up, it's just sitting there," Lurlis Simmons said.

At St. Petersburg City Hall, clearing out the boarded up properties is part of Mike Dove's job. He was hired by Mayor Rick Kriseman specifically to help revitalize neighborhoods.

A two-pronged attack is envisioned: Re-purpose, or remove.

"My goal is to certainly do more (demolitions) than we've done in the past but...the second part of that goal is to bring more people in who will take some of these properties and rehab them," Dove said.

Generally speaking, "From beginning to end I want to shorten that time frame" Dove confirmed.

Some of the legal steps required to take and demolish property have time frames set by state law. Dove is looking for calendar efficiencies within the city bureaucracy, some of which may or may not require ordinance changes.

Back in Palmetto Park, Couch and Simmons wait for those changes, and support them. Clear out the boarded up houses and "Hey, your community starts coming together, it grows, it gets clean and you get to the point where you have good people, they respect one another and once that happens, then you've really got a good neighborhood," Simmons predicted.

Couch prefers moving vans over bulldozers.

"It would be a really blessing to get rid of all the boarded up houses and put somebody in them," she said.

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