$600K will help to demolish 20 houses, 2 commercial properties and remains of Bedford Mill

Angela HartungNews

The slumping top of a light post outside of 78 Ann Ave. in Battle Creek didn’t always slump.

The windows of the 1910 historic home weren’t always busted open.

And the back wall didn’t always have soot from a fire caked into its siding.

It was once a cream-colored, cozy three-bedroom. In a Google Maps street view picture from July 2012, it has cars in the driveway and an American flag flying on the front porch.

But, the same year that photo was taken, the house caught fire. It became vacant, went through property tax foreclosure and was taken over by the Calhoun County Treasurer’s office in 2015. From there, it went to the Calhoun County Land Bank Authority, which takes over properties that do not sell at the county’s tax-foreclosure auctions.

“It needs to come down,” said Krista Trout-Edwards, executive director of the land bank.

And, this year, it will.

The former State Farm Insurance headquarters in Marshall has been vacant since 2006. It will be demolished this year. (Photo: Calhoun County Land Bank Authority)

The Calhoun County Board of Commissioners recently approved giving $600,000 in surplus funds to the land bank to pay for blight removal projects throughout the county.

The surplus will be used this year to demolish 13 tax-foreclosed houses in Battle Creek and seven in other parts of the county, along with three commercial properties: the former Bedford Mill at 22220 Bedford Road in Bedford, which was largely destroyed by fire in 2014; the former State Farm building at 410 East Drive in Marshall; and an auto body repair shop at 319 Hamblin Ave. in Battle Creek.

Some of those properties already have some funding for demolition, but the county funds will fill the gaps or cover the demolition cost completely. The county and the land bank have worked together to take down blighted structures since 2007.

Last year was the first year the county sold more properties than it did not sell through the auction process. In total, the county had 122 auctioned lots and 75 of the lots sold, generating about $1.2 million.

“Last year our total sales revenue exceeded the minimum bid … that’s why there’s a surplus,” said Nina Baranowski, the county’s chief deputy treasurer.

This house at 106 Everett St. E. in Homer Village will be demolished this year. (Photo: Calhoun County Land Bank Authority)

That surplus allowed for the treasurer for the first time to ask the commissioners to approve more money for the land bank, which receives $150,000 from the county every year.

The land bank has about $700,000 in local and grant funds to cover demolition for some of the properties on top of the $600,000 recently approved.

The projected demolition cost of a former State Farm building in Marshall, which has been vacant since 2006, is $700,000.

The land bank has leveraged $200,000 from a Cronin Foundation grant, $100,000 from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, $30,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency and $116,000 from the land bank funds. In total, the land bank has $416,000 secured for the $700,000 project.

“The treasurer is stepping in to fill that gap so we can do that demolition,” Trout-Edwards said.

Other properties, like 78 Ann Ave., aren’t eligible for a state blight elimination grant because they are in historic districts.

“This funding that the treasurer is providing and the county board approved is going to help relieve a lot of these issues that we haven’t had the funding to do,” she said, “so it’s a good thing.”

Source: Battle Creek Enquirer