City looking to purchase, demolish 88 blighted homes

The demolition of 2801 Euclid Ave.

If you own a vacated or broken down home, the City of Fort Wayne is looking to buy it. 

The Housing and Neighborhood Development Services (HANDS) Board is inviting homeowners to consider selling their properties for the betterment of their neighborhood. The Blight Elimination Program started in 2015 after the city was awarded approximately $7.5 million to demolish as many as 315 blighted properties.

Holes in roofs, weak foundations, and failing mechanical systems are just some of the damages that fit the program’s criteria. The city is in the process of or has already purchased or demolished 227 homes. They are looking for 88 more. 

“The blight elimination program is targeting not just eye sores but truly dangerous housing stock,” said Heather Presley-Cowen, director of the Office of Housing and Neighborhood Services and managing director of HANDS.

She explained that taking down these homes not only makes the neighborhoods more attractive, but will decrease the chances of illegal activity, fires, and injured people in the neighborhood, as these dilapidated homes cause a lot of trouble.

“One vacant unit that had 500 police runs to it,” Presley-Cowen said. “What could those resources have been used to do elsewhere in other ways for others?”

The home at 1629 St. Marys Ave. is one of the next to go down, a fact that saddens neighbor Howard Thomas said. His home was built in 1875.

“It’s nice to see these old places like this,” he said. “I would like to keep them up. It’s a shame to see them go.”

Neighbors of 4015 S. Lafayette St. said the raccoons that occupy it are a reason for the property should be taken down.

“I think it’s a good thing because it’s a very old house in bad shape,” said Domingo Hernandez. “With a house like that gone, it’ll make the neighborhood look better.”

James Lindlag is skeptical if the home will actually be replaced by another one, but hopes it is.

“They tore one down there across the street from my house a few years ago and it’s never been rebuilt,” he said. “They put a fence around it. Another one was tore down the street down there a few years ago and it’s just a vacant lot that the church owns. Hopefully they’ll do so something to start revitalizing the south side of town.”

City officials have until October to buy and demolish the 315 blighted properties. They will then work to maintain and redevelop them.

“I would say the success story is that we’re not just buying and demolishing vacant, dilapidated units but we’re actually looking to make those spaces contribute back to the neighborhood again whether that’s a newly constructed home or a pocket park or what have you,” Presley-Cowen said.

Any property owner interested in the program should call Housing and Neighborhood Services at (260) 427-8585.

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