SHENANDOAH, Pa. -- Blighted properties are a problem in many parts of our area, including one Schuylkill County community where a large percentage of homes are vacant.
We spoke with people who have lived in Shenandoah their entire lives. They describe that the Schuylkill County community as one that used to be thriving decades ago. A new study shows that's nowhere near the case now.
Pictures of downtown Shenandoah from the 1960s show cars lined the streets and you couldn't find an empty storefront. The scene is much different now.
"We have a lot of blight, but there's a history to that, too," said Mary Luscavage, executive director of Downtown Shenandoah. "The population in the 1950s was 35,000. The population in 2019 is 5,526."
That steady decrease in population is why borough officials say there are so many dilapidated buildings. According to ATTOM Data Solutions, a property data company, nearly 23 percent of homes in Shenandoah are empty.
"In Shenandoah alone, we probably had 10 to 15 dress factories, or garment working factories. That was a big industry for the women to work in. Mines closed, garment workers, they outsourced, they went somewhere else. There goes all of the work and industry that was in Shenandoah itself," Luscavage said.
Despite those numbers, borough officials tell Newswatch 16 there is some progress being made in Shenandoah. In 2018, the borough received a state grant of a little more than $300,000 and tore down 34 buildings throughout the borough.
"Right now, I think it's starting to recuperate a bit," said code enforcement officer Thomas Salvadore.
In terms of revitalization in the future, Shenandoah has plans to build a brand-new innovation center to serve as a workplace for entrepreneurs. We highlighted those plans in a story done in April.
Officials hope construction on the innovation center will get underway sometime in 2020.