Belleville targets vacant homes, buildings
The frame home at 117 N. 82nd St. on the west side has seen better days.
It’s been vacant for years, the front yard grass is knee high, it’s surrounded by overgrown bushes and trees, the property taxes haven’t been paid and it’s scheduled to go on the auction block on Oct. 24 at the St. Clair County Building, where the minimum bid will be $750.
And it has been selected by Ward 4 Alderman Raffi Ovian to be considered for Belleville’s new program aimed at reducing vacant structures across the city.
“It’s an eyesore for the homeowners that live here in the neighborhood,” said Ovian, who spearheaded the vacant property program approved by the City Council in August.
St. Clair County records show the home is now under control of the St. Clair County trustee because the taxes were not paid.
“The sad part of it is, look at the properties around here,” Ovian said while outside the North 82nd Street home. “People take care of their properties here and it basically is a detraction from the neighborhood.”
Each of the city’s 16 aldermen can submit one vacant property to be considered in the program. Then, the housing department will determine whether the home or building meets the criteria to be included in the program.
If the proposed site is selected, then the property owner may be required to register the building, pay an inspection fee, post a cash bond of up to $25,000 and submit a plan to either make repairs or demolish the building. A first offense violation of the vacant building program could cost $250 for each day the property is in violation and $500 a day for second and subsequent violations.
Ovian said he proposed the ordinance because he wanted to find a way to increase property values and bring in new residents.
“What we’re trying to do is get those properties rehabilitated or torn down,” Ovian said.
Bob Sabo, director of the city’s Health, Housing & Building Department, said along with the North 82nd Street site, five other properties have been selected by aldermen so far. Each alderman gets to nominate one property in their ward.
The six sites selected are:
▪ 117 N. 82nd St.
▪ 4826 Walter St.
▪ 500 S. Virginia Ave.
▪ 1001 Olive St.
▪ 63 Granvue Drive
▪ 21 S. 75th St.
Sabo is retiring from the Housing Department and the implementation of the program will be handled by the incoming director, John Philebaum, who said he does not yet have a time frame for starting the program.
The only properties to be considered in the vacant building program are the ones proposed by aldermen and then approved by the Housing Department.
The ordinance has exemptions for the following types of vacant homes or buildings:
▪ Buildings in which the owners are actively trying to sell or rent.
▪ Buildings that are under construction or renovation.
▪ Homes unoccupied on a seasonal basis.
▪ Buildings that are subject to probate.
▪ Buildings subject to governmental action to determine their suitability for reoccupancy or rehabilitation.
The ordinance describes the city’s goal of stopping the spread of boarded up and abandoned buildings.
Buildings that are indefinitely vacant, or vacant and in a state of disrepair, or boarded up “contribute to a decrease in surrounding property values, discourage investment in neighboring properties, provide a location for criminal activity, undermine the aesthetic character of the neighborhood and city and have other deleterious effects,” the ordinance states.
Earlier this year before the City Council approved the vacant property program, Ovian said he wanted the vacant Franklin Apartments building to be targeted for demolition.
But since Columbia-based Tygracon Properties Inc. started to renovate the brick building at 4 N. 96th St. this summer, Ovian decided to find another vacant property to be targeted.
Karl Gilpin, president of Tygracon, said his company expects to spend about $125,000 on improvements at the four-unit apartment building and that tenants may be accepted within three months. Rent is expected to be about $750 for the two-bedroom apartments.
Along with the Franklin Apartments, Tygracon has proposed to renovate the building at 300 E. Main St. in downtown Belleville and convert it into “high-end” apartments as part of a $1.5 million project.
Gilpin said in the process of renovating older buildings such as the Franklin Apartments and the one at 300 E. Main St., developers often discover they have to do more work than initially estimated.
“It always takes longer than expected,” he said.