Church Row is one of Waterloo's oldest and most historic neighborhoods. The area along West Fourth Street is home to beautiful churches and grand homes. But Church Row's had its share of struggles, including crime.
Now, a local neighborhood association is taking new steps to improve the area.
The Church Row Historic Neighborhood Association has been one of Waterloo's most proactive groups since it started 17 years ago.
"We don't tend to gripe about things. We try to go and say we have a solution to this. What can we do to help?" said association president Mary Potter.
Their latest initiative to help is a home buyer's incentive program.
"We want to attract people that are interest in owning historic home that have a lot of character and that are priced very nicely," said Marty Stoakes of Martin Inc. Realtors.
Church Row is partnering with realtors and three local lenders--Community National Bank, Farmers State Bank and Veridian Credit Union--to get people to consider moving to this part of town.
"They're offering help in upgrading some of the homes if they need some work. They're offering financial incentives as far as good rates and up to 100 percent financing in some cases. So there are some really attractive programs available," said Stoakes.
There's strong evidence that home ownership is a key to helping neighborhoods improve, since home owners tend to take good care of their property.
"All of those things that contribute to deteriorating neighborhoods, home ownership tends to combat. So we're hopeful that in that neighborhood, this happens," said Waterloo Mayor Buck Clark.
Mayor Clark and Church Row residents think the new home buyers program is just the first step in helping bring this neighborhood, and the entire city, back to life.
"The value is very much here, and once we start a campaign to make it grow and grow and grow, it's only going to get better," Potter said.
"If this initiative creates a catalyst for other neighborhood associations to encourage single family home ownership, it would be wonderful," said Mayor Clark.
That's really the goal: something that starts in Church Row just might spill over into other parts of the city, helping bring new development and residents.
Historic tax credits are also being explored, to help restore some properties in Church Row. Open house events will be held throughout the summer to bring people to the area.
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