Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Westwood wants problem property abated, redeveloped

Hazard abatement on the multi-family buildings at 2857-2861 Fischer Place needs to be expedited, according to the Westwood Civic Association (WCA).

WCA passed a motion on January 13 asking the City to speed up the process of demolishing the buildings, and recently sent a letter to Cincinnati's mayor and city council to emphasize its request.

WCA calls the property a "detrimental influence" on the neighborhood because of its proximity to key neighborhood institutions, including the Harrison Avenue business district, Gamble and Westwood elementary schools, Westwood Town Hall, the Westwood branch library, St. Catherine of Siena Parish and School, and Ryan Commons Park.

The structures, which were connected together by owner Philip Angus and IB Property Holdings, LLC without permits and without following City building codes, have broken windows and missing copper plumbing.

City building inspectors also note defective roofs, crumbling ceilings, water damage, and excessive amounts of litter.

"An engineering report about ten years ago indicates that the property would cost then over $100,000 to bring up to code," says Westwood Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (WestCURC) secretary Caroline Duffy, who drafted the letter at the request of the WCA.

The property also had 121 police calls between 2006 and 2008, but the crime problem has existed for much longer.

"In 2004, in cooperation with District 3, an application was submitted and approved through the Safe and Clean Fund to place cameras to focus on this property to combat the 54 crimes committed at this property," Duffy says. "However, the funding for this initiative fell through and the cameras were never installed."

Crimes at the property have included murder, arson, assault, auto theft, domestic violence and drug dealing, among others.

"The property is a major hub for drug dealing from this property throughout the neighborhood, especially to Ryan Park and the Bracken Woods properties," Duffy says. "This has led to a drug shooting in Ryan Park, attacks of children in Ryan Park, breaking and entering at neighbors' properties, and vandalism."

Under the chronic nuisance ordinance, Duffy says that fines against the building owner for the police calls range between $100,000 and $200,000.

"Since this property is in foreclosure, the chances that these fines levied against the property will be paid is in doubt," she says. "Instead, out police resources are being disproportionately used by this property."

If the buildings are demolished, Duffy says that there are two redevelopment scenarios on the table.

St. Catherine Parish has developed an initial concept plan to pour a 31-space parking lot, and WestCURC has been exploring the idea of building two new "green" homes.

A report from city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. is due before council by March 4.