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City Land Bank Looks to Shore up Properties Before Demolition Required

Brent Warren Brent Warren City Land Bank Looks to Shore up Properties Before Demolition RequiredJohn Turner, Gordy Smith (Co-Owner of Rain Brothers) and Reza Reyazi stand inside a half deconstructed home in Franklinton where materials are being salvaged and recycled.
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With over 500 properties for sale, most at prices in the sub-$10,000 range, the city’s land bank is actively looking for buyers. That’s nothing new, of course; the land bank has been acquiring and selling houses, multi-family buildings and vacant lots since its inception in 1994. Over the years, they’ve sold hundreds of properties to investors and would-be home-owners who are willing to put some time and resources into less-than-perfect structures located in some of the city’s less-than-trendy neighborhoods.

What’s different now is the scale of the operation; more properties were sold by the land bank in the last three years than in the previous 16 combined. Those numbers are expected to grow even more in the coming years, as a partnership with the new county land bank takes shape.

John Turner, Administrator of the city’s Land Redevelopment Office, explains that the basics of their business haven’t changed; “we pursue properties that no one else wants.” He is hopeful that they can continue the momentum of recent years while still pursuing new and innovative programs meant to stabilize and improve land bank properties.

One such program aims to stave off a common fate for many land bank properties – demolition. The pilot program is targeting properties that the city has determined would benefit from a strategic intervention now in order to save them from demolition later.

The properties, many of which are historically significant, would receive new roofs, gutters or shored-up foundations; the type of repairs that will ensure that a house remains standing and doesn’t deteriorate further. Work is set to begin soon on the first property, a four-unit building on the south side which will receive a new roof.

Reza Reyazi, who works in the Land Redevelopment office and helped to set up the new program, hopes that the repairs will also make the properties more attractive to private investors.

“For people who are wanting to invest in their community, these properties are already really great deals, and they’ll be even better deals after we do the repairs,” said Reyazi, adding that the average price of properties that have had repairs will probably be in the $25,000 range.

Councilman Zach Klein, with Mayor Michael Coleman’s support, helped to secure $500,000 in funding from the city’s capital improvement budget to start the program.

More information on the Columbus Land Bank is available at development.columbus.gov.

Photos by Walker Evans.

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