BY STAN MADDUX, Times of Northwest Indiana Correspondent

MICHIGAN CITY | A declining residential area on the city's west side will get a boost thanks to an infusion of federal funds.

The city is receiving $2.8 million in federal money issued through the state and will begin, likely in the fall, to demolish about 30 blighted structures identified as unsafe, officials said. Many of the remaining dollars will go towards remodeling foreclosed vacant properties and new construction.

In some cases, according to City Councilman Ron Meer, lots left vacant after demolition will be given to adjacent property owners to maintain.

"Three million dollars doesn't go as far as it use to, but it's going to be a good injection into that neighborhood," Meer said.

The targeted neighborhood is roughly between Lighthouse Place Premium Outlets mall, Indiana State Prison and Mount Baldy, long plagued by neighborhood decay. The hope, officials believe, is to reverse the decline by instilling pride through what should be a noticeable aesthetic improvement to an area plagued by drug dealing and other crime.

Meer said the city has been tearing down several dilapidated structures each year in that neighborhood and the money will enhance that effort.

"It just makes the standard of living over there on the west side a little bit better," Meer said.

Judith Pinkston, the city's community development director, said some demolition should occur in the fall with a majority of the improvements going out for bid in 2010.

"The removal of blighted structures will make the whole neighborhood look better and less desolate," said Pinkston, adding the west side also has the highest rate of foreclosure, subprime mortgages and risk of home abandonment.

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