HOUSE DEMOLITION LIST:
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) -- More than 50 dilapidated homes in Huntington have been demolished in an effort to revitalize neighborhoods.
The West Virginia National Guard and the state Division of Highways completed the four-week project Tuesday.
Christal Petty with the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority tells The Associated Press that 54 homes were demolished.
Perry says the lots will be sold to developers who want to build new residential properties.
A new policy implemented by the authority allows property owners to donate structures on the city's unsafe buildings list to the authority. Perry says five owners have offered to donate their properties so far.
Christal Perry with the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority tells WSAZ.com that there have been no major challenges and they are ahead of schedule on the demolition list.
As of Wednesday, 44 homes have been demolished. There are eight more on the list.
Those to still come down include:
Perry says they have been able to work through the rain and elements of the past month and there has been outstanding cooperation from everyone involved from state to federal leaders.
They hope to have the project done by next week.
And to that end, Christal Perry, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority - or HURA - land bank manager says 10 more properties were just added to the demolition list.
This week, a new HURA policy allows property owners on the city's unsafe building list to donate that home to HURA, for rehab and sale or demolition.
Perry says the home donation list will help reduce even more crime.
“If we have unsafe buildings gone, it’s less of an issue. And with property going back to a responsible landlord - we can take care of the property and at the end of the day, put it back into productive use," Christal Perry said. "That’s what HURA's mission is."
Another advantage of the blighted home removal plan is increased neighborhood property values.
That helps neighbors who have remodeled and now must sell because of the eyesore that was next door.
WSAZ.com was told that many of the vacant lots will be offered to neighbors
To use for remodeling and they say many in Huntington are ready to buy.
Bruce McGinnis recently bought an 18th Street home on Craig's List for $7,000 as a fixer upper.
Bruce says he has designs on the now vacated lot behind his home
“I hope to build a garage for my motorcycle and the kids pool," McGinnis said. "This whole project is great.”
Bruce and others say the now vacant lots around them have already vacated plenty of neighborhood crime and fear.
Wednesday morning, homes at 903, 905 and 907 23rd Street were torn down.
One of the homes caught fire in April 2011 and spread next door. The home was abandoned at the time.
Also on the list for Wednesday are homes at 2315 and 2317 10th Avenue.
This is an effort by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, US Attorney Booth Goodwin and several Huntington officials to clean up abandoned, dilapidated homes in the city.
The goal is to tear down nearly 50 homes in 30 days. After Wednesday, 18 homes will have been demolished since the program started last Wednesday.
Steve and Dolores Jolley are relieved two blighted and burned arson homes on Monroe Street is now on the demolition list.
Relieved since the couple was burned out themselves in February by a nearby apartment building arson.
That's where Steve said an apartment neighbor robbed and angered a drug dealer.
"He seen fit to try and burn her up in her apartment and almost killed 22 people in the process," Steve Jolley said.
About half the homes on the demo list belong to Huntington's urban renewal authority or HURA.
The group is now working on asbestos abatement before demolition.
They said a tenth avenue HURA arson home is regretfully on this list
"We were hoping to sell that property," HURA's Christal Perry said. "We had some takers and then the arson happened."
And Christal has a special place in her heart for a Primrose Avenue home on the list.
"It's a nice little home when you look at it from the front, we were hoping we could rehab it - but in the back…it's falling apart," Perry said.
Next door neighbor Cam Edwards said good riddance to the crumbling home that was abandoned years ago by an out-of-state owner.
"They bought it sight unseen for ten dollars on Craig's list," Edwards said. "It is a bit of an eyesore, we really haven't seen any people in it, and we were concerned."
Cam said the Primrose owners struggled to get the proper permits to restore the ten dollar home and then just gave up.
Many neighbors tell us WSAZ.com the demolition relief is great but too long overdue.
The houses being demolished in Fairfield West may accelerate a redevelopment plan there.
That's the same area where the city's looking to acquire property so the Huntington Housing Authority can build two senior townhouse complexes. Those would help replace more than 100 units at the public housing complex along Hal Greer Boulevard.
"We're working hard to put the neighborhood back in clean productive use," Mayor Kim Wolfe said.
Wolfe says the city wants to see newer homes built on the soon-to-be empty lots. He says there's a variety of ways that could happen.
"We want to get them back in the private sector, whether it's neighbors or developers that come in, Habitat, those types of things,” Wolfe said. “Each one could be a little different."
Once the debris is hauled away, the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority will advertise the vacant lots to potential developers.
The team effort comes on the heels of a recent abandoned home arson epidemic that spread throughout the city. And this was a surprise to many; but to others, a long time plan finally taking action.
It was a plan two years in the making. The first demo site is in the Fairfield West neighborhood -- where they've attacked crime with multi-agency task forces.
Now, they're using local, state and federal resources to eliminate root causes. Blighted homes breed trouble on so many levels, and there was no money to tear very many down -- up until now.
The heavy equipment comes from the West Virginia Department of Highways. The heavy lifting from a National Guard unit now stationed in Huntington.
U.S. District Attorney Booth Goodwin says the 50 homes in 30 days plan is the second part of a two-tiered crime-fighting effort.
“We've removed criminals that caused problems, now we need to go back and remove the structures that housed the problems,” Goodwin said.
City demolition contractor Rob Tassen says they've torn down 50 abandoned Huntington homes in the past three years. He says 50 in 30 days will clean up many nests of crime and filth.
“You see needles, drugs, all kinds of crime in these things, to get them demolished is a plus with all the arsons we've had,” Tassen said.
For many neighbors the tear-downs eliminate vermin breeding grounds.
"The raccoons been getting up in there, nesting in there -- it’s just a bad spot for the community,” said Helen Anabonye.
Huntington’s Urban Renewal Authority got on the demo team bandwagon in May. They put up $170,000 to tear down some of their 44 abandoned properties.
WSAZ.com is told the homes coming down were all tested and abated.
Many people are asking when the abandoned home next to then will come down. There's no list out yet, but the mayor says the project will include neighborhoods throughout the city.
About a dozen Guard members, along with several backhoes and other pieces of heavy equipment, arrived in the 1800-block of 12th Avenue shortly before 8 a.m. Wednesday.
A house, garage and another building on one lot are being torn down today according to our crew on the scene.
Huntington Mayor Kim Wolfe says more information on the project will be released later by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. Wolfe says the property being demolished today will be the backdrop for that announcement.
According to a new release, Governor Tomblin, U.S. Attorneys Booth Goodwin and Major General James Hoyer with the WV National Guard will talk about demotion project to revitalize the Fairfield neighborhood during a news conference in Huntington Thursday afternoon.
Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.