Demolition discussions set in city

WARREN – Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and the city of Warren will hold a series of five meetings in March and the first week of April allowing the public to comment on what should be done with properties once homes are demolished.

“We want to get feedback from city residents about what they believe should be done with properties around the city,” said Michael Keys, director of community development for the city.

Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is sponsoring the forums in association with the city.

“This is the first round of meetings in which we are seeking to obtain community input toward the revitalization of neighborhoods,” Matt Martin, executive director of TNP, said. “What we are hoping will emerge is a civic revitalization plan.”

Martin said TNP has conducted a survey of every residential parcel in the city.

“It is not exclusively about about demolition,” Martin said. “It is about repurposing the properties. It is about what makes sense for the properties and for the city, whether it is demolition or about rehabilitation of individual properties or clusters of properties.”

Marissa Williams, TNP’s community planning coordinator, says the goal of this phase of the discussions is getting neighborhood residents involved in thinking about what they want to do with vacant housing and land.

“We believe residents are the best people to talk about which properties are the best candidates for demolition and which are the best for rehabilitation,” Williams said.

One portion of the discussion is finding out what citizens would like to see done once demolitions begin taking place using money from the Moving Ohio Forward program, which will use approximately $1 million to tear down homes around the city.

Because the demolitions will be scattered throughout the city, TNP is looking to gather information from residents and then will develop a report on what their priorities seem to be.

“What they are trying to learn is whether residents want gardens placed on the lots, the properties split between adjacent owners, or some other solution,” Keys said. “They are looking for long-term solutions for these properties.”

The survey being done is part of a three-year Community Challenge Grant received by the city, which allowed TNP to hire George Piscsalko and Williams to do this type of work.

Rhonda Bennett, a neighborhood activist on the southwest side of the city, said her group is interested in securing homes that can be saved and then find ways to revitalize the properties that may become useful.

“We understand that some properties are too far gone and have to be torn down, but every effort should be made to refill homes,” Bennett said. “Revitalization always is preferable.”

Bennett said some areas should be used to attract small industrial companies that can provide jobs for area residents.

“What we don’t want to see is empty lots that have high grasses and weeds,” she said.

Tina Milner, an activist and a member of the South West Neighborhood Association, hopes to see a plan come out of these meetings.

“I would like to see something concrete and comprehensive that actually will be implemented,” Milner said. “I want the city to move forward.”

Councilman Jim Valesky, D-at large, is pleased that the conversation is taking place, but adds that it should include the long-term vision of what city neighborhoods should be 10, 15 and even 20 years from today.

“We can tear down houses, but the condition of neighborhoods is a symptom of larger problems being faced by Warren and other communities,” he said. “Unless we find ways to address the larger problems, there will be new abandoned and vacant problems a year after we tear down this group of houses.”

Valesky described the demolition of homes in Westlawn as a cautionary tale.

“They tore down houses and moved people away from the area, but what has happened with the property? Nothing. I don’t think that is what we want,” he said.