#Bridgeport, CT – Oct 5, 2013 – As part of a larger effort to address quality-of-life issues, the City has launched a decorative board-up program for vacant houses.
“Our goal, first and foremost, is to see these homes purchased, renovated and to see families move in as part of the fabric of Bridgeport,” said Mayor Bill Finch. “But this program, I believe, is an important interim step.”
Similar programs have been popular in the Midwest as a way to spruce up the appearance of vacant buildings and the concept recently has gained traction nationwide.
The City of Bridgeport, partnering with artists from Bridgeport-based Magnacon7, installed decorative board-ups on two homes on Central Avenue in recent weeks.
The idea is simple. Vacant homes must be boarded up to prevent illegal entry. The bare plywood over windows and doors, however, can be an eyesore for neighbors, said Anti-Blight director Chris Rosario, who worked with Debbie Thomas-Sims, the city’s director of Neighborhood Revitalization, on the project.
The solution was to partner with artists to improve the appearances of the houses. The boards are painted to look like paned windows and doors.
The cost is about $500 per house. Both houses are privately owned and the city installed the decorative boards by emergency order. Liens will be placed on the property to cover the cost.
“This really is thinking outside the box,” said Mayor Finch. “I saw what this property looked like before, and it looks 100 percent better now. Is it still vacant? Yes. Will we still work with property owners to fix up homes or sell them to someone who will? Absolutely.
“But in the meantime, the City needs to do everything it can to improve the appearance of neighborhoods.”
Thomas-Sims said the ultimate goal is to expand the program citywide.
“Maybe it will give an investor an idea of what this property would look like with a little investment,” said Mayor Finch. “It definitely adds a level of curb appeal.”