City development funds to be used to demolish commercial buildings

WARREN — For Norma Helmheckel, the tearing down of the former Masters Cleaners, 1824 McMyler St. NW, cannot be done soon enough.

As Helmheckel watched her great-grandchildren spray one another with water from a hose, she expressed concern about what happens inside the abandoned building across the street from her home.

“I’ve seen children running across the building’s roof,” Helmheckel said. “It is dangerous.”

The building, which is on nearly a quarter acre of property, has been empty for more than a decade, she said. Helmheckel has lived on the street for nearly 61 years.

Another neighbor, Mike Clendenin, said he chased away people who were throwing rocks at cars from the top and side of the building. He said he made several complaints to the city.

“I’ve had problems with rats coming from the building onto my property,” Clendenin said. “The city has given me poison, but it will be better when it is no longer there.”

The former cleaners is one of 11 commercial properties expected to be demolished before the end of the year using a portion of Warren Community Development’s annual block grant funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Community Development estimates it will spend approximately $200,000 for the demolitions.

This is an increase over the $125,000 that was spent on commercial property demolitions last year, which was the first time the city bundled a portion of its annual HUD allocation and used it specifically for the demolition of commercial properties. There were 11 commercial buildings demolished last year as well.

Chris Taneyhill, Warren’s building official, helped pick the commercial structures that would be torn down based on their physical condition, the willingness and ability of the property owner to rehabilitate their properties, and whether they are safe.

“We give property owners every opportunity to, on their own, rehabilitate their buildings,” Taneyhill said.

The city opened bids for the demolition projects earlier this week and will select the companies with the lowest and best bids.

“Instead of seeking a single individual bid for all the properties, we instead told contractors that the selection will be based on the lowest bids on the individual properties,” said Lori Lemasters, grants coordinator for the Community Development Department. “So a company may be awarded for one or multiple properties, but the city should be paying the lowest amount possible for the demolition.”

There are five companies that bid on the demolitions, according to CD Director Michael Keys.

“We are very pleased we will be able to take down 11 properties this year,” Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said. “We did 11 last year, bringing the total number to 22 commercial properties being brought down in two years.”

“These properties are eyesores,” he continued. “They are, for the most part, on major thoroughfares. Because they are highly visible, taking them down beautifies the city.”

Lemasters said that since Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has been successfully getting and using its funds to demolish residential properties, CD would use its funds to address the demolition of commercial properties. The city will seek to recoup any funds expended by putting liens on properties that it demolishes.

However, Lemasters said the city has yet to recover any funds from liens placed on the commercial demolitions it completed in 2017.

In looking at money recovered from liens placed on residential properties demolished from 2009 through 2012 using Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, Lamasters said CD recovered $88,164 of the approximately $2.1 million it received in grants for the program.

The recovered money was used to demolish additional homes. A total of 344 residential properties were demolished under the NSP program.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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