South Allison Hill set to get overdue overhaul

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – South Allison Hill is set to get a serious makeover. The City of Harrisburg announced plans to revitalize one of its roughest neighborhoods.

While stopping by the bodega at Derry and Mulberry streets around the corner from her home, Courtney Devlin said she has felt invisible for a long time.

“I think that a lot of residents here feel left out,” she said, “just kinda forgotten.”

For years, people living in Allison Hill have said city officials don’t care about them. Many point to vacant homes, broken street lights, illegal dumping, and a myriad of other dilapidated woes plaguing much of the area.

“There’s really nothing around here that doesn’t even look nice at all,” Devlin said.

Beneath boarded up homes and piles of trash, city officials there’s a raw diamond in the rough waiting to be polished.

Jackie Parker, Harrisburg’s director of economic development, discussed plans to revamp the neighborhood between Mulberry and Derry Street, dubbing the project MulDer Square.

She said in front of that bodega where Devlin grabbed a snack is a historic horse trough, showing potential for a new beginning.

“[The trough is] part of a historic area,” she said, “and we’re hoping to revitalize that and make that square really look nice.”

Parker admitted the plan is the first of its kind for Allison Hill in recent memory. She pointed to a map showing a bevy of beautification makeovers that will be conducted privately and publically.

Parker said the city and several private organizations have begun to secure funding along with these respective federal grants: Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, estimated $1,996,366; HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) Program, estimated $481,295; and Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) Program, estimated $160,887.

The city on Monday applied for another $6.5 million in available state grants under the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Parker walked over the application to a state budget office feeling confident a Midstate governor would approve the funding.

Parker said a lump sum of that magnitude would really help make a difference in that area.

“You can’t just say, ‘OK, this year we did this and this year we did this.’ It’s really gotta come together at one time to make the fullest impact,” she said.

Parker said the city should find out if the funds are awarded by late spring or early summer. She said the grants typically have a time frame to use the funds within 18 months to two years, which would make for a quick turnaround.

While the project is in its early stages, Parker said the beautification would include sidewalks, storm drains, overhauling vacant homes, and planting trees. She said the city plans to help small business owners apply for grants to fix up their storefronts.

“There are a lot of businesses that are located in this area. We’re hoping to help them as well,” she said.

Parker said prior investments have been made in Allison Hill in the past, but this was the first time an entire area may get a full revitalization at one time.

“I think that once you do all that investment, it can’t help but be improved,” she said.

Residents like Devlin remain skeptical. They said they have heard promises in the past, so don’t fault them if they would rather wait-and-see before believing.

“I think it’s a good idea,” she said. “I hope that they do it. I don’t know.”

The city will hold a series of public meetings so people can give input on the project and learn more:

– February 19, 5:30 p.m. at Hamilton Health Center, 110 S. 17th St.

– March 5, 5:30 p.m. at Harrisburg School District, 1601 State St.

– March 12, 5:30 p.m. at Heinz-Menaker Senior Center, 1824 N. 4th St.

– March 19, 11:30 a.m. at Harrisburg Area Community College, 1500 N. 3rd St.

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