Commercial buildings being knocked down in Warren

WARREN — The city has begun tearing down 11 commercial buildings in order to clean up neighborhoods and make them safer.

It is using funds from the 2017 Community Development Block Grant received annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It is paying $213,993.42 for for the demolitions, which includes $195,472.50 to pay four companies for the actual work and another $18,460.92 in “soft money” to prepare for the demolition work.

Lori Lemasters, grant coordinator for the Community Development department, said the property owners will be billed for the city’s expenses.

Nine of the properties are privately owned, one is owned by the Trumbull County Land Reutilization Corporation, also known as the Trumbull County Land Bank, and one is owned by the city.

“This the second year we’ve used a portion of our CDBG grant to demolish some of the dilapidated commercial buildings,” Lemasters said.

Last year, the city demolished 11 buildings, spending $128,142.85. It has not recovered any of the money used for those demolitions.

“We have plans to do it again next year,” Lemasters said. “The reason we’re using this money on commercial properties is Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership has been using demolition funds it has received from various sources to tear down residential housing it has access to through the land bank.”

TNP legally cannot use its funds to demolish commercial properties, according to TNP Executive Director Matt Martin.

“This is an excellent use of the grant money,” Martin said. “We’ve talked to the city about how we cannot tear down commercial buildings and they decided to use their grant to take of this problem. The city has the ability to tear down buildings it does not own. We must own the buildings.”

TNP so far in 2018 has spent an estimated $1.6 million in demolition and asbestos removal on 180 residential properties.

“We are on pace to demolish 200 properties this year, which would nearly double the demolitions done in 2017,” Martin said. TNP demolished 101 properties in 2017.

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 property owners to rehabilitate and whether they are safe.

Of the nine privately-owned commercial properties, five have a combined net due amount of $41,993.89 in back property taxes owed to the county.

Mike Robinson, a senior delinquent tax administrator with the Trumbull County Treasurer’s Office, said the taxes will remain on the properties as long as they are privately owned.

“Anyone looking to purchase the properties will see the back taxes owed on them,” Robinson said.

Robinson expects the city to ask the county to begin foreclosure proceedings.

“Property owners, if they feel there is potential value, have the opportunity to pay back taxes and maintain ownership or allow the civil procedures to go forward,” Robinson said. “Once the foreclosure is complete, the properties will be transferred to the Trumbull County Land Bank or to state control.”

The former owners will no longer will be responsible for the taxes, according to Robinson.

Four of the properties, 806 Parkman Road; 1403 Main Avenue SW; 909 Martin Luther King Boulevard; and 3937 Youngstown Road SE have been torn down. Properties at 2774 and 2782 Youngstown Road are in the process of being torn down.

Two of the largest commercial building that officials would like to seen torn down, but are simply too large to be done using these funds, are the former St. Joseph Riverside Hospital on Tod Avenue NW and the former Community Development / Health Department building at 418 Main Ave. SW.

“We inquired about the cost of demolishing 418 Main Ave. about four years ago and, at that time, the cost was more than $600,000,” Lemasters said.

The last tenant at 418 Main Ave., Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corporation, moved into its new location at 333 Harmon Ave. NW on June 30.

It was estimated in 2012 the cost of demolishing the former hospital was more than $1 million.

rsmith@tribtoday.com

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