A four-story apartment building that officials say has been vacant since 1957 came down under the swing arm of an excavator yesterday, as members of a community development corporation applauded.
Mayor Jack Ford presided over demolition of the 32-unit structure at 2107 Putnam St. by crews from the city's division of streets, bridges, and harbor.
The building, owned by Esoteric Enterprises Inc., of Lithonia, Ga., had long ago fallen into disrepair. Vagrants were using the structure for shelter at night, and some residents said the building was the site of constant drug activity.
"They had run someone out of there this morning," said Jenai Hicklin, a board member of the Warren-Sherman Area Council, the community development corporation that has been building new homes in the area.
"Schoolchildren walk by here every day. We are fortunate that we haven't had an incident involving them. We're very happy it's coming down."
Warren-Sherman has been building new homes in the area for several years. Bill Rixey, Warren-Sherman's executive director, said the city's demolition of the structure will help make the homes more attractive.
The mayor said the city's crews did the demolition yesterday for about $50,000, or half of what it would have taken for the city to bid out the work, saving taxpayer money.
One nearby resident, David Quinn, asked about the rodents in the building, saying the demolition would chase rats from the structure to homes. He called on the mayor to get his crews to lay rat bait.
"I know if the mayor says 'I want rat bait here today,' there will be rat bait here," Mr. Quinn said.
Tom Kroma, the city's deputy director for economic and community development, assured Mr. Quinn that the building had been laid with rat bait before the demolition started - standard procedure in such instances.
He said additional rat bait was placed in the alleys around the fallen structure by the afternoon.
The subplot to the demolition was the mayor and other city officials offering praise to Warren-Sherman for its work in the neighborhood, the same community development corporation to which it has denied federal Community Development Block Grant funds for the past two years.
Mr. Rixey and some of Warren-Sherman board members said they appreciated the recognition for their organization's work, but would like that to translate into block grant funds.
Mr. Rixey said Warren-Sherman has applied this year for $75,000 in block grant money the city doles out each year.
"I think if the taxpayers had a vote [on who would receive block grant money], I believe we would be funded," Mr. Rixey said.
City Councilman Michael Ashford said Warren-Sherman has not received block grant funds, but has received a lot of attention in the city's capital improvement program budget.
"We work a lot with Warren-Sherman making sure they have sidewalks and street improvements," Mr. Ashford said. "If you take that, it's well over $75,000. I think they've done a fantastic job in the neighborhood."
The mayor said he has not seen Warren-Sherman's request this year. Mr. Ashford and Mr. Kroma said the applications currently are under review for this year's funds.