Huntington tears down 101st home, on track to meet goal

Updated: Jun. 16, 2021 at 9:43 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - In October 2020, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams announced plans to tear down 119 structures from the unsafe building list by June 30.

The deadline will be here in exactly two weeks, but city officials are confident they’ll reach their goal.

On Wednesday the “ugly green monster,” located at the corner of 26th Street and 4th Avenue near the soccer complex, was torn down and marked the 101st structure to be demolished. It caught fire years ago and has be an eyesore and nuisance spot ever since.

Neighbors say they’re excited to see it go.

“It’s important that it comes down,” said Daren Brannen. “Clean up the neighborhood on top of that.”

At one point, in 2017, the unsafe building list housed more than 400 structures. Christal Perry, a demolition specialist with the city, said the list is an ebb and flow process. They’re constantly adding new properties, but also buildings are being removed as property owners rehab the spaces or have the homes torn down on their own.

Another 56 buildings are scheduled to be demolished.

Perry said one of the major hurdles was dealing with asbestos. Many of the properties are older and require treatment. During the pandemic, though, labs were backed up and behind so they had to juggle and coordinate several agencies.

“We can’t demolish our way out of this problem,” Perry said. “We look at this just like you would look at taking care of yourself. Preventative maintenance can go a long way.”

Along 27th Street alone, 10 structures have been knocked down. Now grassy lots remain in their place. Drivers say they hardly recognize the area and are impressed, especially once the road got repaved.

Fire Marshal Mat Winters says it’s been a team effort from all departments in the city, including the fire department, police, code enforcement and other groups to help combat unsafe homes.

“If we don’t step in now from the fire department side and help with a little bit up front,” said Winters. “In the end, it could be ours to deal with when it burns.”

For residents it’s a matter of safety and impacts their quality of life. Abandoned homes lead to increased crime, drug use, rodents and the potential for fires.

Neighbors are ready for what comes next.

“Hopefully in the next few days or so they’ll have it all down and cleaned up, then hopefully something new will go in there, or just remain a lot,” Brannen said.

It may look like an empty lot now, or a field of grass, but for others it’s a renewed sign of hope on the horizon -- a patch of potential for the Jewel City.

To see our original story from October, tap here. Or check out our update we posted in January.

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