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Good Neighbors
by Jodi Ackerman
Rensselaer’s Neighborhood Renewal Initiative aims to enhance livability and foster economic development

On any given weekend, Sean Moore can be seen making repairs and sweeping ancient debris out of the 100-year-old home he recently purchased at 577 Congress St. in Troy, several blocks south of campus. Moore, a repairman in Rensselaer’s physical plant department, is one of several members of the Rensselaer community who have taken advantage of the university’s recently launched Homebuyer Incentive Program.
Sean Moore
Photograph by Mark McCarty

“When I heard about the grant, I just jumped all over it,” says new homeowner Sean Moore.

The program, which offers $5,000 to qualified homebuyers who purchase a home in neighborhoods north and south of campus, is part of the university’s Neighborhood Renewal Initiative. The initiative was officially established under President Shirley Ann Jackson in 2000 to enhance the livability of the city’s neighborhoods, foster economic development, and stabilize property values.

“I was looking to buy a house for a couple of years, and I knew that any little bit of money would help. When I heard about the grant, I just jumped all over it,” says Moore. He plans on restoring the building’s antique façade and renting out the empty storefront, which once was a restaurant that used an old trolley as kitchen space.

A National Trend

Schools around the country, particularly in urban settings, are developing and engaging in programs to enhance economic stability in the areas surrounding their campuses.

Indeed, in her inaugural speech, President Jackson coined the term “communiversity” to define the common link between a university and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“We recognize that greatness in a university is inextricably linked to the vitality of the region in which it is situated,” Jackson said in September 1999.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) already has recognized Rensselaer’s efforts in this national trend. In January, the federal agency awarded the university $400,000 under HUD’s Community Outreach Partnership Center Program (COPC).

Rensselaer is using the grant to fund several community outreach projects. One is the Neighborhood Renewal Initiative, aimed at revitalizing Troy’s neighborhoods by promoting comprehensive neighborhood planning, homeownership, and economic development surrounding campus, and refurbishing streetscapes, buildings, and other infrastructure.

So far, Rensselaer has committed more than $2.5 million in neighborhood renewal plans from fiscal year 2001 through 2003. The money includes the roughly $1 million being spent on the reconstruction project on College Avenue along the south edge of campus. The project consists of repaving the road and adding new sidewalks, curbs, trees, streetlights, and crosswalks. In addition, the university has leveraged an extra $125,000 (including money from the COPC grant) from government and private foundations.



Rensselaer Magazine: September 2002
President's View Your Mail From the Archives Hawk Talk Class Notes Features
Front Page At Rensselaer Milestones
In Memoriam Making a Difference Staying Connected
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