Tag Archives: Blight Watch

Advocates attack blight by salvaging building material | The Detroit News | detroitnews.com

Wood from a 102-year-old house in Hamtramck now holds pottery bowls and pitchers at the soon-to-open Tea Room in Detroit’s Sugar Hill Clay Gallery. City officials say it’s cheaper to demolish than deconstruct.

Detroit— James Willer has a simple approach to blight: Re-use before you raze.

So before crews took down an abandoned, 102-year-old house on Hamtramck’s Carpenter Street, members of the WARM Training Center removed wood for use as shelves, trim and floors in other buildings.

The historic wood now provides shelves for pottery bowls and pitchers at the soon-to-open Tea Room in Detroit’s Sugar Hill Clay Gallery. Across the street in the newly renovated Great Lakes Coffee House, not yet opened, wood accent walls saved from the Hamtramck house complement the Midtown café’s exposed brick.

And the home’s hardwood floors grace the interior of Newberry Hall, a newly redeveloped apartment building with 28 units. Zachary and Associates, a Detroit-based development firm that specializes in historic preservation, renovated the former nursing school across the street from the Detroit Medical Center.

“One house has been used for so many different projects,” Willer said.

His center trains people to take apart every beam, plank, brick and piece of flooring from homes and recondition the materials for use elsewhere.

Advocates say the process, known as deconstruction, preserves building material, creates jobs and reduces landfill use.

Groups such as WARM Training Center have tried to tap into millions of dollars in federal funds dedicated to razing thousands of blighted Detroit homes.

But city officials maintain it’s cheaper to demolish than to deconstruct.

“I clearly understand the benefits of doing deconstruction, but our need is so great, and federal funds have timelines. We did not see a group or groups that could take on the volume we had at the price comparable to demolition,” said Karla Henderson, group executive of planning and facilities for the city of Detroit.

Since 2009, the city has had access to about $4 million a year to demolish abandoned buildings.

Continue reading Advocates attack blight by salvaging building material | The Detroit News | detroitnews.com

Demolitions leave an urban prairie: Can any of Buffalo’s dilapidated houses be saved?


A house on Roetzer Street on Buffalo's East Side is surrounded by empty lots left after vacant houses on the block were demolished.<br>Photo by Derek Gee/ Buffalo News

Buffalo’s East Side is in demolition overdrive.

On Goodyear Avenue alone, 99 houses and other buildings have been demolished since 2000. On Fillmore, it’s 96 houses; on Sycamore, 81; and on Bailey, 79. And they’re hardly alone: On 27 other East Side streets, 40 or more demolitions occurred during the same period.

“I used to live here,” said Lena Merecki, visiting a friend on Goodyear, where she grew up. “It is much more beat-up than it was. It seems like emptiness now.”

Matt Cummings has a similar feeling when he returns to his old Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood: “It’s a ghost town. They just move the crane right down the street.”

Mayor Byron W. Brown’s administration has been on a demolition spree, with a goal of knocking down 5,000 buildings in five years, including those owned by private individuals and city redevelopment agencies. Coming on the heels of the Masiello administration, which demolished thousands more, a lot of buildings have come tumbling down.

“Other than Detroit, I don’t know any city that does the magnitude of demolitions that Buffalo does,” said David Mazur, president of Empire Dismantlement on Grand Island. He has worked in the demolition field for more than 20 years in 16 states.

Neighbors and even critics don’t doubt the need for many, if not most, of the houses to come down. But as the impact of the demolition program takes hold — with some blocks on the East Side virtually wiped out and others with lots left vacant for more than a decade — there doesn’t seem to be a plan for rebuilding the inner city, they say.

There are also concerns that run-down properties end up on the demolition list despite being structurally sound.

A trashed and boarded-up house on Michigan Avenue, in the Cold Spring neighborhood and within view of City Honors School and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, is one example.

There’s a hole in the ceiling where thieves ripped out pipes for scrap. Radiators and door plates are missing. A hole juts through one of the walls, debris is everywhere, and a bathroom sink sits on the kitchen floor.

But the floors are level, water damage is minimal, and the hardwood stairwell — part of a dual staircase common to some early 20th century homes — seems solid.

“The damage certainly adds a significant amount to the cost of renovation. But the house, besides the damage done by the scrappers, is in excellent condition,” said Daniel Ash, a community activist working to revitalize the Cold Spring neighborhood.

“It’s a crime demolition would even be possible here,” added David Torke, another neighborhood activist.

Torke says he occasionally gets copies of the city’s proposed demolition list and visits some of the houses. “At least 20” over the years were salvageable, he said.

Leonid Chatkhan, who has bought more than 100 houses as rental properties, agrees that the city is sometimes too quick to demolish.

Chatkhan in early April persuaded Housing Court Judge Patrick M. Carney to halt an emergency demolition on Butler Avenue over the city’s objections.

A back-porch addition to the vacant Hamlin Park house, located in a local preservation district, collapsed. Chatkhan, who bought the property at auction months earlier, had the rear of the house repaired in two days.

“The original foundation is solid like a rock,” Chatkhan said.

Continue reading Demolitions leave an urban prairie: Can any of Buffalo’s dilapidated houses be saved?

Group Launches $100 Million Home Rehab

An innovative non-profit group has launched an aggressive $100 million campaign to rehabilitate thousands of homes left to decay in blighted urban neighborhoods as a result of the U.S. foreclosure crisis. The organization has qualified for financing to repair vacant homes from bankers to help damaged neighborhoods.

The group’s chief executive says a new initiative launched by Builders of Hope, based in Raleigh, North Carolina will help rebuild neighborhoods that have had thousands of homes left vacant by the real estate collapse.

“The Upcycle program is specifically designed to address the many interconnected housing issues that the nation is struggling with,” said CEO Nancy Welsh. “The lack of affordable rentals, the surplus of foreclosed houses, the neighborhoods suffering from blight and the inefficient state of our existing housing stock.”

The effort will employ thousands of construction workers and real estate agents to help communities re-populate neighborhoods, which may help to stabilize home prices and increase safety in many areas to attract investors.

Continue reading Group Launches $100 Million Home Rehab

Syracuse revamps vacant building demolition process : News : CNYcentral.com


The City of Syracuse is looking at ways to improve the way it handles dangerous vacant buildings.

Ever since he moved into his home on Hatch Street in Syracuse 5 years ago, George Horne says it’s been a constant battle with City Hall over abandoned buildings on his street. “You call city line and you have to make repeated phone calls to get them down here.”, Horne complained.

Recently the front porch on one of the homes collapsed. Though city crews cleared the dangerous debris from the yard the next day, Horne called CNY Central’s Jim Kenyon to look into the way Syracuse handles vacant structures. It turns out, the city is revamping the process according to Neighborhood Development Commissioner Paul Driscoll, “What we’ve instituted lately is a more robust grading system for all these vacant structures.”

Driscoll says inspectors now check all 19-hundred vacant buildings at least once every three weeks. He says each is placed in one of five categories with the worst slated for demolition based on their danger to the public. Driscoll says the five abandoned homes on Hatch Street have been classified as “fair” meaning they’re not yet ready for demolition.

Last year, after Kenyon reported on the vacant home problem in Syracuse, Mayor Stephanie Miner increased the demolition budget to $1 million. Driscoll says he’s lobbying for another million for next year. The average cost to tear down a building is around $20 thousand, according to Driscoll. He says the city has stepped up its negotiations with insurance companies and property owners to reimburse the city for demolition costs. “Unfortunately that’s fairly rare to be reimbursed through an insurance company. ” he said.

The Nieghborhood Development Commissioner says he’s restructuring the bidding process by which the city hires a contractor to take down a building to, among other things, allow for deconstruction. “Deconstruction is a method of taking apart a house and reusing many of the components. It’s much more labor intensive but it’s also greener and provides more job opportunities.” Driscoll claims.

Driscoll is also proposing to use part of the city’s demolition budget to target specific neighborhoods where abandoned houses threaten to bring down property values for everyone.

He’s is considering a plan by which a building can be moved higher on the demolition priority list if a neighbor offers to buy the empty lot. He says that will remove the taxpayer expense of having to maintain the lot.

via Syracuse revamps vacant building demolition process : News : CNYcentral.com.

Baltimore affordable housing fund: Much of the money paying for demolition – baltimoresun.com

A cluster of vacant rowhouses in the 1600 block of North Gay Street succumbed to the metal claw of an excavator this month, as yet another batch of unwanted city homes turned to rubble.

Once the East Baltimore tract is cleared, nothing will be built there. It will be turned into a community-managed open space, providing a patch of green for residents of nearby senior housing units and tenants at the restored American Brewery building.

The $215,000 demolition is among the most recent projects funded by the city’s Affordable Housing Program. The $60 million program was created six years ago, after then-Mayor Martin O’Malley dangled it as a carrot in his successful effort to persuade a skeptical City Council to support a new Hilton convention center hotel downtown.

But while the city-owned 757-room hotel opened in 2008 to fanfare, the housing fund has largely faded from public view. Some current council members weren’t even aware of it until The Baltimore Sun inquired.

The Affordable Housing Program has spent three-fifths of its original budget so far. And despite the program’s seemingly straightforward name, the bulk of that $36 million has gone toward tearing houses down, not putting them up.

“It was really a blight elimination program,” Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said. “There was some confusion about the money being used for development of new housing. In fact, that was not the primary purpose of the money.”

Continue reading Baltimore affordable housing fund: Much of the money paying for demolition – baltimoresun.com