By David Bauerlein Florida Times Union – The homes along Ken Knight Drive are a collection of small townhomes and single-family houses built in the 1960s and earlier. To repair homes in the flood plan and bring them up to current building codes, they would have to be elevated at least 10 feet, but that’s not a viable option because of the condition of the structures, according to a legislative fact sheet.
The $5 million buyout program is the second round of assistance for Ken Knight Drive in as many years. In 2018, the city used part of a $2.8 million United Arab Emirates donation to the city for the neighborhood: $250,000 to Builders Care and $400,000 to Habijax for home repairs and restoration, plus $800,000 for Charles Reese Park restoration and neighborhood infrastructure.
The program using UAE money has completed repairs to one home so far and more properties are in the pipeline, Kimbleton said. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some delays for the city and the grant recipients, she said, but the city is working with Builders Care and Habijax to extend the grant agreements so the work gets done.
The restoration of Charles Reese Park is complete and the city put speed humps and added lighting on Ken Knight Road at the request of residents, Kimbleton said.
The ongoing home repairs won’t conflict with the buyout program because they will target different categories of homes, said Tom Daily, chief of the city’s Housing and Community Development Division.
The buyouts will only be for homes in the flood plain. The home repair program will just be for homes that weren’t built in the flood plain, Daily said at a recent meeting of the council’s Neighborhood’s Committee.
Gordon said he already has his eye on a house on the other side of the Ribault River bridge where he’d like to move with his two children. The house “might need a little work on it, but it’s kind of like on a hill” so it won’t be at risk of flooding.
As for his life-long connection to the Ribault River, it will be a short drive to Charles Reese Park where a fishing pier juts over the river.
“As long as I’m able to come back to it, that’ll help me,” he said. “If I can just stand here and see it, that will do something for me.”
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