Jun. 23—SHARON — The Lots to Love program will expand into more Sharon neighborhoods with a $120,000 state grant.
Lots to Love, a collaboration between the City of Sharon and the Community Action Partnership of Mercer County, allows the city and residents to turn empty lots into gardens or for other special projects. It also facilitates the sale of vacant lots to people who own adjoining properties as part of Sharon's campaign against blight.
The city will receive funds from the realty transfer tax and Act 13 impact fee — the state's fund from hydraulic fracture drilling licensees — to pay for demolishing of abandoned and blighted properties and prepare them for redevelopment.
Christina Campbell, program director, said the grant from PHARE, the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement program, will allow Sharon to expand the program into the West Hill neighborhood.
"The grant will allow us to do a couple community feedback meetings," Campbell said. "We will have the funds to do a lot of projects and it will help the side lot program."
During the program's first year in 2020, it was focused in the "avenues" neighborhood, bordered by Sharpsville Avenue, Hull Street, Jefferson Avenue and State Street. Lots to Love helped Fourth Avenue area residents established a community garden and down the road on North Street, the city built a new playground with the program's funds.
Toward the end of 2020, Lots to Love lost some state funding and city council declined to cover the gap with local money but Campbell and the city applied for grants to make up for any money lost.
For the first year in operation, residents purchased 18 side lots to expand their properties. Residents adopted 12 lots for garden sites.
In addition to the grant awarded from PHARE, the city contributes $25,000 and First National Bank, for the second year, has committed $20,000 to the program.
"We're still trying to solicit other businesses to contribute as well," Campbell said.
As word has spread, Campbell said the city has received 35 applications for side lots.
Campbell said she is excited about what the project has meant to the community.
"I enjoy seeing the neighbors get excited about the projects and the lots being cared for," Campbell said.
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