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Land bank effort to fight blight ahead of schedule

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    David Mann, Land Bank president and CEO, provides a community update on its plan to renovate or demolish 1,500 properties in 1,500 days which was launched in July 2016.

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    Dennis Kennedy, center right, City of Toledo's Division of Code Enforcement manger, shakes hands with Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi, center left, while Stephanie Shackelford, projects manager with the Lucas County Land Bank, right, and John Doncouse, left, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Haynes Real Estate, watch during a tour of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) provides a community update on its plan to renovate or demolish 1,500 properties in 1,500 days which was launched in July 2016.

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    A bathroom at a Land Bank home at 527 Durango Street.

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    A handmade balustrade at a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    Sean O'Neill, left, with the City of Toledo's Division of Code Enforcement, and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), right, speak together after a press conference about the Lucas County Land Bank's plan to renovate or demolish 1,500 properties in 1,500 days which was launched in July 2016.

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    One bedroom at a Land Bank home located at 527 Durango St.

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    Stephanie Shackelford, projects manager with the Lucas County Land Bank, left, greets David Mann, Land Bank president and CEO, at the front door during a tour of a Land Bank home located at 527 Durango St.

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    A before picture of the kitchen of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    Stephanie Shackelford, projects manager with the Lucas County Land Bank, shows visitors the living room Monday during a tour of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    Sean O'Neill, left, with the City of Toledo's Division of Code Enforcement, looks at before and after pictures during a tour of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz provides a community update on its plan to renovate or demolish 1,500 properties in 1,500 days that was launched in July, 2016.

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    Dennis Kennedy, center right, Toledo's Division of Code Enforcement manger, shakes hands with John Doncouse, left, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Haynes Real Estate, while Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi, center left, and Stephanie Shackelford, projects manager with the Lucas County Land Bank, right, watch during a tour of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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    A before picture of a Land Bank home at 527 Durango St.

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The three-bedroom, one-bathroom house on Durango Drive is clean, modern, and inviting.

With its landscaped lawn and front porch with blooming flower baskets, it’s a far cry from the abandoned house and overgrown yard that neighbors saw for years before the Lucas County Land Bank acquired it through tax foreclosure.

The home is one of many success stories that land bank officials highlighted on Monday as they celebrated the half-way point of an ambitious initiative launched in July, 2016.

They set the goal then to demolish or renovate 1,500 properties in 1,500 days to fight blight in the county, and 750 days into the project they are ahead of schedule. They’ve demolished 920 houses and commercial properties, and another 240 have been either fully renovated or are in the remodeling process.

“That has the power to really impact the rest of the real estate market in this neighborhood and help this neighborhood rebound more quickly so we can use land bank resources elsewhere,” said Lucas County Treasurer Lindsay Webb, who serves on the land bank board.

WATCH: The land bank celebrates passing the halfway mark

The Durango Drive house is one of 15 in South Toledo’s Burroughs neighborhood that has been transformed from a blighted property to a house area residents can take pride in.

“It looks wonderful,” said Gail Simon, 58, who lives across the street. “It’s much better.”

Mrs. Simon, who has lived in her home for 30 years, was also pleased to hear the land bank listed the house for sale at $74,900 and has an offer on the table.

“It will probably be one of the single-highest sale prices in this neighborhood in more than 10 years,” land bank President and CEO David Mann said. “It’s a testament, I think, to the ability of our neighborhoods to recover.”

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) said the housing market crash in 2008 caused many homeowners to abandon their properties or fall into foreclosure.

 “Millions of people lost their homes,” she said. “Millions more had their home values reduced [so that] even today they owe more on the mortgage than the home is worth.”

The Lucas County Land Bank formed in 2010 in response to the blight caused by the housing crisis, and can acquire tax delinquent properties to either fix up or tear down. 

Toledo City Councilman Peter Ujvagi, who represents part of the Burroughs neighborhood, said he is glad the land bank is fighting blight in Toledo, but he wants to ensure homes that can be saved are remodeled rather than torn down. He said the next step to keep neighborhoods healthy is to work with homeowners and community groups to identify properties at risk of abandonment before they’re too far gone.

“The target for what the land bank is doing is excellent and they’re achieving it,” he said. “What we don’t want to see is new abandoned houses being fed into the system.”

The land bank will mark the end of its 1,500 days initiative in September, 2020.

Contact Sarah Elms at selms@theblade.com419-724-6103, or on Twitter @BySarahElms.

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