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City demolition mission complete

Oct. 09, 2012 @ 11:05 PM

HUNTINGTON -- The West Virginia National Guard and state Division of Highways completed their mission Tuesday to tear down dozens of dilapidated homes in Huntington over a four-week span.

Crews demolished 54 structures and removed debris from those sites in 28 days, according to Christal Perry, an administrative assistant for the Huntington Urban Renewal Authority who oversees the day-to-day operations of the agency's land bank program. Many of the demolition projects were concentrated in the city's Fairfield East and West neighborhoods.

The city and HURA footed the bill for the demolition program -- about $340,000 -- but officials say the work would cost more than $500,000 and take approximately three or four years to complete without help from the National Guard and Division of Highways.

"To do that amount of work in a month's time is herculean in my opinion," said Charles Holley, the city's director of development and planning. "It's nothing short of remarkable."

Twenty-seven of the properties demolished by the National Guard and DOH were owned by HURA, Perry said. The vacant lots will be sold to developers looking to build new residential properties.

"It's going to have a huge impact," Perry said. "We had developers approaching us at the demolition sites asking to buy the vacant lots. The residents are extremely happy, too. One lady on 23rd Street told us it was the first time she has ever seen sunshine come through the window of her house because there were three dilapidated structures blocking her view."

HURA also has implemented a new policy which allows property owners who have structures on the city's unsafe buildings list to donate the property to HURA. So far, five property owners have come forward and want to donate their property, Perry said. HURA can only accept property if it is clear of liens, she said.