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Land Bank could receive $2 million toward commercial building demolitions

The Lucas County Land Bank could receive some much-needed financial support from Columbus if a demolition pilot program proposed by state Rep. Derrick Merrin (R., Monclova Township) survives the state budget process.

The Ohio House of Representatives passed a nearly $75 billion, two-year general fund budget this week that includes $1 million each year for the local land bank. That money, along with $250,000 per year for neighboring Fulton County, is intended to help pay for the demolition of blighted industrial and commercial properties in Mr. Merrin’s district.

“There’s been a lot of public funds previously for residential neighborhoods, but there’s really nothing out there for commercial and industrial sites,” Mr. Merrin said. “The goal here is to increase economic activity and get rid of these structures that are blighted and reducing property values, and hopefully put a vibrant business in these places that attract jobs and contribute to the tax base.”

The Lucas County Land Bank has torn down more than 3,500 vacant or abandoned, blighted buildings in the decade since its inception, but nearly all have been residential. Lindsay Webb, Lucas County’s treasurer and chairman of the land bank’s board, said industrial or commercial properties are more challenging to address, both because of their size but also because of pollution issues that may come with them.

Two properties immediately come to Ms. Webb’s mind when she thinks about how the land bank could use the potential state funding: the former Rosemary Apartments building at 3632 N. Detroit Ave. and an abandoned warehouse at 1510 Elm St. They’re not only eyesores, but they’re reminders of deep community heartbreak.

In 2016, Josh Sorrell, 16, died in Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center after falling down an elevator shaft at the vacant apartment building, which city officials had ordered boarded up or torn down. He and six friends were playing hide-and-seek in the darkened building when he accidentally walked into the open elevator shaft.

Residents have pressed for years for those buildings to be torn down and the sites repurposed.

“It would be transformative for both of those neighborhoods if those sites were demolished,” Ms. Webb said. “I’d really like to see that happen. I think Josh’s family deserves that and so does Cindy’s family.”

The proposed state funding requires a one-to-one match in order to be used, so the total investment likely would be more than $4 million over the next two years. David Mann, the land bank’s president and chief executive officer, said it will take more than $4 million to tear down and repurpose all the blighted industrial buildings in the county, but he is thrilled to have any amount of funding to put toward the work.

He said the land bank intends to identify feasible projects and help find the matching funds. Beyond demolition, the land bank also works to breathe new life into neighborhoods.

“If a site can be cleaned up and it’s strategically positioned, it is a chance to do new development, grow the local economy, and create jobs,” Mr. Mann said. “So this is really not just an investment in removing eyesores from the neighborhood, but also doing something better with that land that could make an economic difference for the community.”

Mr. Merrin said he believes the Lucas County Land Bank is the best organization to pilot such a program. If successful, he envisions expanding the funding statewide.

Fulton County doesn’t have a land bank, but despite its more rural makeup, it does have commercial buildings that need to be torn down. Mr. Merrin said he is working with Fulton County officials to ensure they can participate in the pilot, too.

The state budget now heads to the Senate for debate before it is sent to the governor’s desk.


Posted By: The Toledo Blade on April 24, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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