Christopher Cook, 38, grew up in the residential heart of Altoona, and the deterioration of the neighborhoods where he spent his childhood has left him embarrassed and sad.
As a restoration contractor, Cook has taken it upon himself to help reverse the slide into blight, thus redeeming that embarrassment and sadness, he told a small audience Wednesday at the first and final public meeting of the city’s Blight Task Force, of which Cook was a member.
In the last two years, Cook has bought 20 of the worst of the city’s couple of hundred blighted and abandoned buildings and has rehabilitated 16 of them.
He’s a type that Altoona could use more of as it gets set to act upon the Comprehensive Blight Strategy released Wednesday by the task force, created last summer by Mayor Matt Pacifico.
Incentivizing private development like Cook’s is mentioned in the new comprehensive plan, although it’s not a high-priority item for the Action Team that Pacifico named on Wednesday.