Harrisburg block devastated by sinkhole being transformed into green space

Harrisburg

It’s been more than five years since a sinkhole devastated the south side of Harrisburg. It forced dozens of families out of their homes and made the structures virtually worthless. But now, there is finally activity on South 14th Street.

The street is being redeveloped into a green space for community members to use.

Mayor Eric Papenfuse had just taken office when a giant sinkhole disrupted 53 Harrisburg families.

“One of the reasons it took so long is we painstakingly worked with each family, each homeowner and each renter to help relocate them,” said Papenfuse.

The area that laid desolate for so long now has movement. The city bought all the homes at what they would have been worth before the sinkhole opened.

Over the next month and a half, the buildings will all be demolished. Deed restrictions prohibit building anything else on the land, so Harrisburg plans to turn it into a green space with walkways.

“People can walk their dogs, play catch or sit on a park bench,” said Papenfuse. “I think it will be a nice addition to the neighborhood.”

ABC27 asked dozens of residents their thoughts on the plans. No one wanted to speak on camera, but many told us they were happy the vacant houses were being removed. 

The project, costing more than $6.5 million, is being funded by local, state and federal agencies.

“We are the first municipality anywhere, anywhere in the United States to use disaster relief money to fund the sinkhole remediation project,” said Papenfuse. “Officials throughout the country came on a big FEMA bus to kind of see what we’re doing.”

The work on the green space will continue into the summer.

“What is currently an eyesore will soon become a really, really beautiful part of South Harrisburg,” said Papenfuse.

The mayor says because of the limestone geology and the persistent fault lines, it would never be safe to live on the block.

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