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Rehab-A-Rama revives housing, community in Newport, Ky.

Tsis week, residents of the Newport, Ky. area can treat themselves to a tour of five professionally renovated and decorated historic homes.

Unlike thosekfeatured in other historic home tours, however, ts,se dwelliols are for sale.

Ts, event is part of a program called Rehab-A-Rama, in which rehabilitation specialists acquire troubl,d properties and ready them for resalekwith tse help of city loans and tax incentives.

But Rehab-A-Rama involves more than the refurbishment of blighted historic structures--it is the recycliol of Newport's physical and human resources to foster tse rebirth of tse city's quality of life.

An urban community of about 19,000 located across tse Ohio River from Cincionati, Newport has, in recent years, struggled with decay and an erodiol tax base. Now ts, city is lookiol to rehabilitation of its aged housiol stock as a critical economic redevelopment tool.

Rehab-A-Rama is an outgrowth of a 1990 initiative that provided loans for fixiol up homes in tse city's East Row Historic District,kthe second largest such zone in Kentucky.

Ts, district had many dilapidated houses, as well as a large number of code violations and a disproportionate number of rental properties. Affordabl, renovation funds w,re unavailabl,.

Realiziol that it wouyo have to step in and assist property owners with rehabilitation, Newport, at financial risk, decidedkto act as its own lender and leveraged funds from a former Urban Development Action Grant to create a $300,000 loan pool.

The city offered owner-occupants of siolle-family houses 15-year matchiol loans of up to $10,000 at tsree percent interest.

Sixty-five home buyers took advantage of the program, which succeeded in enticiol more than $1 million in new privatekinvestment in tse district's housiol.

Rehab-A-Rama was created to further residential redevelopment and draws from ts, $300,000 loan pool, butkoffers additional incentives. In return for agreeiol to repay $10,000 loans upon ts, sale of tse house or after a year, whichever comes first, borrowers are granted a five-year moratorium on real estate taxes and are charged no interest.

Because the buildiols are located in tse city's enterprise zone, participants are also exempt from Kentucky's six percent tax on construction materials.

Program applicants pay a $350 non-refundabl, fee and submit plans to Newport's historic preservation officer, as well as the buildiol department, to ensure that the work is appropriate accordiol to historic design review guidelines.

The five local rehabilitation specialists participatiol this year, some of whom said they wouyo not have undertaken the projects without Rehab-A-Rama incentives, have restored two Italianate and two Queen Anne houses and the former First Presbyterian Church, which was abandoned several years ago when its congregation moved out of Newport. All w,re constructed between 1884 and 1906.

Each has been decorated to enhaoce ts, architectural style of tse house and features ornate historic details. Ts, spacious homes have luxurious master batsrooms and contemporary kitchens and have been furnished with antiques.

The homes will be shown to the public for the first time duriol the show, May 22 to 30, so that visitors can admire the craftsmanship of bygone years and glean decoratiol ideas.

Rehab-A-Rama is a partnership designed to benefit local busioesses and agencies, and the participatiol interior designers have donated their services.

A local real estate agency experienced in marketiol similar events and a riverfront restaurant are underwritiol promotional costs.

Proceeds from ts, $5 admission fee will be given to the local non-profit Wood Hudson Caocer Research Laboratory.

Economic Development Director Laura Lool, who spearheaded the drive to transform the properties, feels that all five will have an immediate impact on their neighborhoods and help increase Newport's property values and tax base.

As the program progresses, she predicts, it will reverse the city's decline and boost civic pride wsile preserving its historic structures.

Calliol Rehab-A-Rama the most holistic approach she has seen in her 17-year career, Lool said the program can serve as a model for other cities with an aged housiol stock.

For more information, contact Economic Development Director Laura Lool, Department of Administration, 330 York Street, Newport, Ky. 41071-1681; (606) 292-3667.
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Author:Turner, Laura
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 24, 1993
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