Harvard to demolish buildings with help of grant

The city of Harvard has been able to address three abandoned properties with the help of a grant received from the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

The $100,000 grant will pay for the demolition of the buildings at 200 N. Johnson St. and 209½ Ratzlaff St. It also paid for asbestos abatement for the properties, which Mayor Michael Kelly said has been completed.

A third abandoned property, 607 N. Howard St., was put out for bid as a surplus property to be rehabilitated, and it was awarded to the highest bidder Tuesday.

Anne Nutley, the code enforcement officer for the city, said in an email that the final bid for the structure was $8,500. It will continue to be a single-family home, as it is in a residential district, Nutley said.

Nutley said the Johnson site has been vacant and condemned since 2010, the Ratzlaff building has been vacant since 2006, and the Howard structure has been vacant because of a fire since 2009.

The house on Howard will need to be renovated, as it likely needs a new roof and to be cleaned out, with some remediation in the front room where a fire was, Kelly said. He said the property was a good deal for the person who bought it, adding that it has a good structure.

Permits were issued Friday for the demolition of the properties on Johnson and Ratzlaff, and they are scheduled to be torn down Sept. 15.

Once the two homes have been demolished, the city will start seeking buyers to use the properties as green space or other redevelopment opportunities, according to a news release.

“All three properties were in distressed condition with no property owner responsible for the repairs,” Nutley said.

The grant was applied for through the Illinois Housing Development Authority in early 2018, and it was awarded to the city March 16, 2018.

The city had not previously sought ownership of the properties because there were no appropriations to resolve the “nuisances” before, Kelly said. When the city got the grant, it then began the legal process to gain ownership through the court system and was given the title to the properties.

There are no other abandoned properties with unknown property owners in Harvard, Nutley said.

The city has seen “sustained depressed property values” since 2008’s housing collapse, according to a news release from state Rep. Steve Reick’s office. The abandoned properties made the problem worse, and the grant will help alleviate the downward pressure on property values, Reick’s office said.

“Abandoned properties in our communities put downward pressure on home values, which diminishes your ability to utilize the equity you have in your home. That hurts every family’s checkbook,” Reick said in a statement.

Along with lowering the property values, Kelly said the properties were a “significant blight” on the community, with vandals getting inside and doing additional damage in some cases.

Kelly said the grant will help property values in Harvard overall and make the community a more pleasing place to live.

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