CITY CONTINUES TO WAGE WAR ON URBAN CORE

The City is looking to step-up its demolition program to combat what it “defines” as urban blight.  By the destruction of selected homes in specific areas of the urban core, the City hopes – and I use the word lightly – to bring new development to the areas left by the destruction of homes.  Not long ago, the City set out on a path to do just that with the Renaissance Point project – a project that so far has yielded very little in the way of the goals that were set.

The reality is that a razed home is a lost home and leaves in its place nothing more than a vacant, weed-prone lot that will more than likely never be used as a home site again.

The Fort Wayne and Allen County areas have historically been overbuilt with homes.  With a county plan commission that has rarely met a subdivision it didn’t like,  the march toward a subdivision littered county is all but assured.  With subdivision construction comes flight from the inner core of the city – or vice versa.  But either way, the urban core is being decimated by a policy of subdivision construction coupled with a policy of demolishing older homes found in the urban core.

A grant application prepared by the city claims that over the past 30 years, 50,000 families have left the urban core.  As part of a larger federal grant application, the city is seeking $4.8 million to raze 400 homes throughout the city, again with a focus on the southeast. That is 400 empty lots, and, even if the city uses its program of selling the empty lots to the neighboring homeowners, an empty lot does not have the value of one with improvements.

As the city pursues its war on the urban core, a soon-to-be released study by IPFW opposes the strategy of razing older homes, and, instead suggests that the better policy is to secure the homes for future restoration – sometimes called mothballing.   Mothballing can be a solution to the rising vacancy rates of the city’s older neighborhoods if the city is truly interested in salvaging what is left of the core of Fort Wayne rather than waging war by demolition.

East Central neighborhood - empty lots where houses once stood

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About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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9 Responses to CITY CONTINUES TO WAGE WAR ON URBAN CORE

  1. jack3dusp says:

    sigh… what are the solutions??

  2. Jack:

    I have no magic answer to that. I do feel strongly, though, that demolition of 400 homes – primarily in the southeast quadrant – will be devastating to the area. The city argues that the homes are basically 1950s clap-trap and are not worth saving.

    But if that is so, why does the city allow deterioration of the small, box-type homes (I call them Pleasant Valley Sunday homes) that were also built around the same time in some of the suburban areas?

    We have to have a workable and enforceable county-wide plan. The existing plan is simply a guideline, and, as seen by the Cedar Creek fiasco, can just be ignored in favor of the all mighty dollar. The county plan commission works at odds with the city’s goal of reinvigorating the core. And the county plan commission does not appear to care – or perhaps understand – how its actions affect the urban core.

    I also wonder whether or not the residents of the southeast quarter have an understanding of just what is going to happen to that area. It may be easy to say, “Great, we got rid of that run-down home beside us” and not think about doing that 400+ times over and how it will impact the area.

  3. Scott Greider says:

    Don’t have time to write, but I wanted to say good post. I agree completely!

  4. iceironman says:

    So, suburbs are horrible, because they take up space. Yet returning these spaces to an original state is bad, I dont get it.

  5. Iceironman:

    Measured growth of suburbs is acceptable, but when every construction is approved, it not only takes up space but also leads to deterioration of a city’s inner core. Tearing down homes in the urban core is a form of destruction of that area – its businesses, its families, etc.

    When tearing down urban core homes is done concurrently with building up of the suburbs, the goal of revitalizing the inner core does not stand a chance. Until the city and county work together on a coherent, ENFORCEABLE plan, the urban core will generally get the short end of the stick.

  6. Phil Marx says:

    Charlotte,

    During the fourteen years that I have lived in my iner-city neighborhood, I have seen five houses demolished within a block of my home.

    The first house to go sat unoccupied for at least seven years. The grounds were maintained by the city, and it served as a haven for drug activity. Project Renew has subsequently built a new house on that lot and it is currently well maintained by the present occupant.

    The second house to fall was unoccupied and had sat vacant for many years. People kept prying the boards off the doors and windows, presumably for drug or other illegal activities. It had been thouroughly gutted by the time it was demolished and it has since been replaced by a Project Renew home which appears to be well maintained.

    The third house to fall sat unoccupied for at least eight years. The only purpose it served was to provide cover for the drug house which was next door to it. It is currently an empty lot.

    The fourth house to fall was the above mentioned drug house. Through a strange turn of events, the police obtained a warrant to enter this house a few years back. Although the warrant was not expessly authorizing the search for narcotics related activities, it was apparent that was what the police were hoping to find. When they came out empty handed, they very quickly sent NCE over to find an excuse to condemn the house.

    NCE actually balked at the police at first, claiming this house looked better than many surrounding houses. The police expressly stated that they needed NCE to find an excuse to condemn the house, so they did. This house was finally torn down last year and the property is currently an empty lot.

    The owners cried foul, stating the police were just harassing them, but I know that no one has ever lived in this house during the entire time I have lived in this neighborhood. For well over ten years, it served only as a front for illegal drug activity, and it’s demolition was served a very large role in turning the tide on the illegal activities here. NCE may have been overly critical of them, but they still acted within the law. Personall, I view this in the same light as Al Capone being sent to prison for tax evasion.

    The fifth house was demolished a few years ago by the private owner of the property. It had been gutted by a fire and he decided it would be less expensive to maintain an empty lot than an uninhabitable building.

    Overall, my opinion is that there is no lack of housing in the inner-city. I paid $3,000 for my house, and I still continue to see many in this area that sell for less than $10,000. Houses that sit empty for years seem to seve no purpose other than to aid in the criinal activities that are rampant in the iner city.

    Honestly, I can see no reason to not demolish a house which has set empty for a long period of time. If the owners are maintaining it, then there should be no issues at all. But if it falls on the city to do this, I think they should set a two year period and then begin to agressively pursue the process of condemning and demolishing the house.

    Personally, I applaude the city’s (including FWPD) efforts to rid my neighborhood of these problems.

  7. DENNIS BAKER says:

    Charlotte,
    The newly revised Minor Plat Ordinance is a good example of what will contribute to the problems you are describing.
    The revisions will now enable a developer to develop a residential neighborhood of ANY size in an A1 or A3 zone without the requirement of re-zoning. The residents of Allen County are now powerless to remonstrate against it.
    For all the effort that went into Plan-it-Allen, you might as well flush it down the toilet. Maybe someone down-river will know how to read.

  8. Phil:

    Your neighborhood is fortunate that several of the empty lots were again used for housing. All you have to do is do a Google Earth view of the urban core – in particular East Central and the southeast, and it is obvious that rebuilding is the exception and not the norm.

    How many homes are torn down compared to the number of new constructions? I will wager that there are far fewer new homes built compared to the number torn down.

  9. Dennis:

    I certainly hope that the minor plat ordinance is reworked – and not by those who have a vested interest in seeing it remain. I can’t believe the amount of conflict of interest that occurs on both the Allen County Plan Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals – and the relationships with real estate and construction firms.

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