VALPARAISO — The city's Redevelopment Commission will introduce two new programs this year, both aimed at helping neighborhoods.
The commission has earmarked $200,000 toward a housing initiative and $160,000 toward neighborhood improvements.
City Councilman and RDC member Matt Murphy said the housing program will be modeled after a similar project in Whiting.
"It will be an incentive for private investors in invest in neighborhoods," Murphy said, adding the funds will be targeted to blighted areas within the city.
The neighborhood improvements program will have an initial budget of $160,000.
Mayor Jon Costas said the funding will be tied to the work of the director of community engagement being hired by the city. Costas said the position should be filled within the month.
The director, he said, will be charged with connecting with neighborhoods, seeing what they need, and the funds will be used to help meet those needs.
The parameters of both programs has yet to be finalized, said RDC officials.
They also are part of the commission's overall $16 million budget for 2018, RDC officials said during a recent presentation to the City Council.
The bulk of the RDC's budget, $7.5 million, or 45 percent will be spent on core projects including the continued expansion of the transportation district, industrial park projects and ValpoNet, the project installing a dark fiber network to improve connectivity for businesses in the city.
Stu Summers, executive director of the RDC, said the commission is finishing putting together the requests for proposals for the transit district. The proposals will be issued next month with a goal of selecting a preferred developer for the district centered around the old Anco property. Once selected, the developer will be able to finalize plans with possible construction in 2019.
Economic Development Director Patrick Lyp said the ValpoNet project is about two weeks behind because of weather, but should be completed the end of January or early February.
In addition, Lyp said the RDC is getting continued interest in the 80,000-square-foot shell building at the Lakes of Valparaiso Business Park.