INDIANAPOLIS -- As an Eastside house met the wrecking crew Monday, Mayor Joe Hogsett said demolition isn’t the only tool for redeveloping blighted properties.
Two years ago, the city received more than $6 million from the U.S. Treasury’s “Hardest Hit Fund” to demolish 336 abandoned and vacant structures, but the project was stymied from the start.
A study released earlier this year by the Center for Community Progress found plenty of blame to go around, including problems with the state’s county tax sale system, a lack of centralized data about blighted properties, and a comprehensive strategy for dealing with vacant and abandoned properties in Marion County. The federal program’s complex rules also vexed city officials in Indianapolis and elsewhere.
“The program rules were being developed after the money was already allocated, so we’ve had to figure out what is a replicable process that we can go through to identify, assess, abate and demolish the properties, and that’s taken some time,” said Jeff Bennett, Deputy Mayor for Community Development.
Bennett was among those on hand Monday to watch an excavator tear into an abandoned house on Oxford Street, on the city’s Eastside.
He said the city has three main ways to deal with blight – by making problem owners fix up, pay up, or give up their property.
“Using a really strategic approach, that is a kind of neighborhood by neighborhood approach, we can deploy tools in all three of those categories to effect a redevelopment outcome that’s positive for the neighborhood,” he said.
There are an estimated 3,200 chronically abandoned properties in Marion County.
Hogsett said a total of 99 properties have either been torn down or are in the pipeline for demolition. That includes 59 abandoned structures at a trailer park on the city’s west side, which he said are scheduled for demolition next month.
“As mayor, I will not tolerate whole portions of our city being left behind,” Hogsett said. “We are committed not just to the demolition of blighted properties, but to the redevelopment and rehabilitation of blighted properties.”
He also cited the city’s work with the Center for Community Progress, which laid out a series of recommendations for dealing more effectively with blight. That includes the development of a “problem properties work group,” which has been working since March to identify "the worst of the worst" blighted properties, Hogsett said.
Indianapolis has until the end of 2017 to finish its work under the "Hardest Hit" blight program.