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War on blight: Harrisburg’s effort to brighten up the city

Reported by : Kyle Rogers

HARRISBURG - As Mayor Eric Papenfuse continues his "war on blight," community members gathered to close up broken windows in a bright way on Tuesday afternoon.

With help from the Pennsylvania National Guard, blighted properties deemed condemned and abandoned are in the process of being boarded up.

The collaborative effort between the City of Harrisburg, Tri-County Community Action, Penn State Harrisburg and the National Guard features painted panels designed by neighborhood children.

"Hopefully it will be a beautiful home," said Papenfuse in front of a property along South 13th Street. "In the meantime, it's no longer an eyesore. It's no longer bringing crime."

Papenfuse's fight against blight began shortly after he took office.

A member of his team was late to an afternoon press conference after surveying a condemned home along North 14th Street.

The home, which is leaning on it's right side in between a playground and occupied home, is owned by a property group in Illinois. The city plans to demolish it next week.

Papenfuse told CBS 21 News he plans to propose an ordinance to city council to allow the city to target certain properties and take them out of the hands of speculators and the tax sale system. Papenfuse also wants owners of vacant lots to be charged a fee for having the property if they do not do anything to remedy the situation.

Meanwhile, National Guard members will continue to board homes throughout the city's Allison Hill section with painted panels through September.

"I hope people look at this and start to look at some of the blighted buildings and ways we can create and repurpose them and add unexpected art to the city," said Jeff Copus, a graduate student at Penn State University involved in the program.

The painted panels were created by neighbors, including Senator Rob Teplitz, during the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.
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