WILKES-BARRE — A nonprofit organization has it eyes on city-owned vacant lots as part of a plan to revitalize neighborhoods.
Larissa Cleary, founder of In the Gap, presented the group’s plans for the properties to City Council this week. “My idea is to utilize the city’s land; sell it to me for $1 in order to build and develop the area,” she told council.
With only five minutes to present her group’s plan, Leary provided a summary and said she looked forward to meeting with council members for a more in-depth discussion. If given the opportunity to do so, she said, “I could make every one of them happy.”
In the Gap, based in the city, intends to construct 12 townhouses on Hickory Street and single-family houses in the 400 block of South River Street, she said. If the lots don’t sell, the group would revamp its plans so the townhouses would be rent-to-own properties, Cleary said.
Census Bureau map of Cherry Hill Township, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Whenever John Aponik cuts the grass, bits of blue tarp get caught in the blades of his lawn mower.
Around Christmas, “it gets in all the wreaths,” Aponik said of the tarp that has been shredding off the house next door to his on Glen Lane in Cherry Hill, where a renovation project was abandoned four years ago.
No one has lived in the house since then, Aponik said, although it isn’t exactly vacant. “Raccoons, possums – cats were breeding out there,” Aponik said, who has set traps lent to him by a neighbor.
He’s also written letters to the mayor’s office and repeatedly called a contractor employed by mortgage companies, but the problems remain: The township doesn’t own the property.
When a school’s doors are closed for good, a building that cost millions to build can sit vacant and unused for years until it’s sold for a fraction of its worth.
The state of the economy, zoning laws and the institutional makeup of the structures all make schools a hard sell. And as long as the district owns the building, it has to pay for maintenance even if no warm bodies are moving through the hallways.
Doug Haring, a city real estate appraiser, said selling schools has become brutally expensive.
“Everything is a lot harder to do today, and that translates into more expense,” Haring said, referring to stricter zoning laws and municipal building code restrictions.