Joe Thomas, who lives on Batavia Street, cheered as the vacant three-story wreck at 2307 Warren St. started crashing down.
"It's like a dream come true. I can't believe it's happening," Mr. Thomas said, as the claw on a backhoe bit into the front of the house, sending out a shower of dust and debris.
He said he has lived for 30 years in the neighborhood, which is just off West Bancroft Street east of Ashland Avenue, and has watched it decline.
"This used to be a beautiful neighborhood," he said. He said the razed house had been an eyesore that harbored cats, raccoons, and possums.
Heavy equipment operators from the city's Department of Streets, Bridges, and Harbor knocked the house down yesterday after orders from the city to seal it after a 2002 fire were ignored. Mayor Jack Ford said it was the first demolition of 250 nuisance properties that are scheduled for razing this year.
Mr. Ford said the city's new nuisance-abatement ticket law took effect yesterday. That law allows the city's inspectors to issue a $75 ticket for nuisances. Additional violations will cost $150 and $300. Under the previous ordinance, inspectors issued orders to owners to clean up their property within 72 hours, with
the threat of criminal charges.
"Our nuisance inspectors have been instructed to begin issuing tickets on properties that have failed to comply with the code," Mr. Ford said.
Mr. Ford said he hopes one of the city's community development corporations takes an interest in building on the lot. However, empty lots are beginning to compete with houses in the near-downtown neighborhood. The Warren house was ruled public nuisance in September, 2002, and the owner was twice ordered this year to secure the house within 72 hours, according to city records.
Orders to clean up the property within 72 hours have been issued nine times since 1988, city records show. During that time it has had five owners, including, for five months in 1989, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The house was built in 1892, and was most recently purchased by Katie Weathers of 2005 North 12th St., in 2001 for $15,000.
Ms. Weathers could not be reached for comment. A file of nuisance orders issued by the city to Ms. Weathers showed no responses from her.
Tom Kroma, the commissioner of building inspection and code enforcement, said it appeared that the owner had been trying to improve the house, but a fire had ended those attempts.
Mr. Kroma said it costs about $4,000 to demolish a building and the costs will be billed to the owner. He was not able to say how successful previous attempts at collection have been.
Last year, the city demolished 263 houses.