WARREN - Over the next 30 days, one city street will become virtually unrecognizable.
That's because all but two of the eight houses on Orchard Place N.E. - a dead end that runs off Scott Street between Waverly and North Park avenues - will be torn down, according to Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th Ward.
Once filled with families, in recent years the large houses have become vacant and vulnerable to thieves looking for copper, electrical wiring, aluminum siding and other valuables.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew says all but two homes on Orchard Place N.E. will be torn down using grant money. Photo by Raymond L. Smith
The Warren Fire Department has used one of the homes for practice burns.
"I'll believe it when I see it," said Evelyn Poff, who lives in one of the two houses that will remain. "I've lived here for seven years. City officials have been saying they would be tearing down these houses for a long time."
Michael Keys, Warren's community development director, says it is actually Trumbull County that will be razing the buildings.
"The county had money from its Neighborhood Stabilization Program III funds available, and several months ago it suggested it wanted to use some of the money to tear down houses within the city," Keys said. "We sent them a list of about 35 properties for them to consider. We are hoping they will get to most of them before they run out of the NSP grant money."
The county has $565,561 in its demolition budget, according to Julie Green, grants coordinator for the Trumbull County Planning Commission. It is using $292,711 in Warren. The remainder is being provided to Girard, Brookfield, Liberty, Howland, Warren Township and Newton Falls.
There are 27 houses in Warren being torn down with these funds. Warren provided $24,212 for the demolition program.
Countywide, 73 homes will be torn down with the NSP III funds, which were awarded in late August.
Poff's son, Tim, and his wife, Sherri, purchased the house she lives in nearly 18 years ago. He lived in the home for about 11 years, before moving. Evelyn Poff moved into the house shortly after her son's family move out seven years ago, so she could be closer to her job.
Sherri Poff says the neighborhood was much different when they moved in.
"It had a lot of families living in the neighborhood," she said. "It was not a suburban neighbor, like in Howland, but it was nicer. We never had trouble with vandalism or anything."
Sherri Poff said that over the years the neighborhood has gone steadily down.
If the houses are eventually torn down, the elder Poff would like to see wildflowers planted on the empty land.
"I like my home," Poff said. "I want to stay. Putting the wildflowers would attract humming birds."
John Szabo, who has lived one street over on Plymouth Place for about four years, said razing the houses would significantly improve the neighborhood.
Szabo can see the homes on Orchard Place from his back window.
Dee Scott, whose family has lived in the neighborhood since he was a child, agrees that tearing the houses down would improve the area. However, he added, if they city is going to do it, it should arrange for the companies performing the work to hire area residents.
"We need jobs," Scott said. "People want to work."
Duke Worthy, a friend visiting Scott, said tearing down houses is not the solution to inner city blight.
"The city needs to put money into helping to fix up homes," Worthy said. "About $5,000 per house is being provided to tear down these properties. The city can invest the money and do a fundraiser to help people raise enough money to rehabilitate some of these homes. It can help families move into homes so the can be raised up out of poverty."
Worthy said efforts also should be made to reduce drug trafficking and prostitution in the area, so people will feel safer.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew said having these homes torn down will make the area safer, and once the homes are gone and grass planted it will create a park area for children to play.
The city in the near future also plans to apply for Ohio Moving Forward funds to tear sown even more houses.
Keys said the city will not be able to apply for the until city council passes a new resolution that specifies its demolition plans.
"We expect to have that before council before its next meeting," he said.