September 17, 2014

Elyria
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Elyria mayor witnesses razing of blighted houses in Elyria

Brinda

ELYRIA — The huge claw of the monster excavator hit the dilapidated home on East Bridge Street with a thud and repeatedly smacked the exterior walls, windows and roof until nothing remained but debris.

“I’m sure there was once a lot of life lived in that house, but I’m glad to see it gone,” Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said as she watched the two-story home crumple before her eyes. In some cities, mayors take a whirl behind the machine when it comes time to demolish problem homes, but Brinda was happy just to watch the process unfold.

“We hope to one day repurpose this property and make it vital to the community,” she said of the long vacant home smack dab in the middle of a largely commercial area. Located at 352 East Bridge St., it is near LifeShare Community Blood Services, the Elyria Post Office, North Coast Chiropractic and Smitty’s Place — the same restaurant President Barack Obama visited in January 2010.

It was hard to see the home in recent years as trees and weeds eclipsed its exterior. But once the trees were removed last year in advance of Thursday’s demolition, the neglected state of the home came into full view.

The home’s demolition marked a milestone in the Brinda administration, which has for months told residents it would work to revitalize neighborhoods by ridding streets of vacant, decaying homes.

“It’s the first, but it will not be the last,” Brinda said. “We hope to have a lot more — at least 38 — come down by the end of February.”

The demolition of the home was paid with money Lorain County garnered from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, which received millions in a settlement with mortgage companies over the devastating foreclosure crisis. Lorain County’s share, which includes matching funds from the Lorain County Port Authority, is more than $3 million.

“We hope to use the money to get at least 200 homes down this year,” Commissioner Ted Kalo said. “Each one that comes down does just that much more to clean up neighborhoods by improving the quality of life.”

Kalo said Lorain County is being aggressive with home demolitions because it hopes the more insistent efforts will open up more money for communities. One of the main caveats in getting the state money is that it is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis to encourage city officials to move quickly.

Brinda said Elyria is moving fast and using funds from multiple sources with no prejudice toward where the money comes from.

Moments after watching the razing of the East Bridge Street home, she drove to a second problem home at 346 S. Maple St. and watched it meet its end. Money from the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Fund through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development paid for that particular demolition.

Neighbors stood outside and watched as that home was systemically erased from their street.

“I’m so happy to see this happened,” said longtime resident Jo Anne Brown, who walked from her nearby home to investigate the loud crashing sounds. “We have waited a long time for this to happen. Now, we just need this other one to come down. Then, I will really cheer.

“All of these homes looking like this make Elyria look bad,” Brown added.

Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, who lives right across the street, said it has been years of work to get 346 S. Maple St. demolished.

“When I woke up this morning knowing this house was coming down, I was excited to know the process with this house has come to an end,” he said. “I also had a sense of gratitude for the amount of work residents have done to advocate for their community and hold city officials accountable.”

Madison said the work on his street and in the rest of the city is not over. He also hopes a home next to 346 S. Maple St. will come down soon. But that one will take a little more legal legwork because the owner is fighting the condemnation and demolition.

“I think we will eventually see that one gone, too, and maybe we will have a huge tailgating party with residents to celebrate taking back our neighborhood,” Madison said as he eyed Ely Stadium through the clearing made by the absence of the home.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.