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Dilapidated Properties: Banishing the Blight

Updated: Wednesday, June 18 2014, 11:20 AM CDT
SPRINGFIELD -- Around the city, boarded up properties dot the landscape. Though they're slowly disappearing as the city tears them down, plenty remain.

Three years ago, while running for mayor, Mike Houston said he would take back every corner of the city, one abandoned property at a time. The city has been making progress. It has $500,000 slated for demolition and disposal costs the council is expected to vote yes on a $75,000 grant to do even more.

But even as the dilapidated properties come down, plenty more are still standing.

Outside a broken and boarded up house on 9th Street, the president of the Enos Park Neighborhood Improvement Association, Michelle Higginbotham, can't wait to see it gone.

"Just recently the police were called and they found as many as eight people at a time staying in this property."

The association has been aggressively trying to improve Enos Park with various programs, including restoring old homes. Higginbotham says some buildings just need to come down, though.

"It becomes very hard to attract new people into the neighborhood when you have these blighted properties that become such a nuisance," she said.

Fortunately, she says its on the city's "to demolish" list. But it's one of many.

About 35 to 45 buildings are ready to come down now, and another 400 are in all different stages of getting approved for demolition, and more are added every day.

Mayor Houston says the city's doing well with demolition

"We want them to realize the city is enforcing its building codes," he said.

The mayor said the city has been having more success getting people to obey city codes as a result.

The Public Works Department has been busy since Mayor Houston took office. With the help of contractors, they've taken down about 180 blighted properties.

"Compared to about 30 or 40 in the previous administration," Public Works Director Mark Mahoney pointed out.

So the administration is making progress, but the bottom of the barrel isn't anywhere near.

"And we expect to have another group up for this demolition season, which would be December to March, another group of probably 60 to 80 houses to take down," Mahoney said. "So it seems like at this point, sort of an endless process."

Houston says the $75,000 the council is schedule to vote on could be used for some larger projects. Right now the city's goal is to take down about 100 properties every year.

Mahoney says the city's responsibilities don't end once the run-down buildings come down. He says the city still must maintain the vacant lots.Dilapidated Properties: Banishing the Blight

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