Calhoun County awarded $3.8M to combat blight in its communities



BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — Riverview Avenue in Battle Creek is lined with single-family homes. Each of them are well-kept with manicured lawns and flower gardens. Except one. A  two-story house near Wagner Drive is falling apart. The front steps are eroded and it’s covered with chipped white paint.

Residents said it’s been like this for three years.

“It’s ugly and it’s an eyesore,” said Tim Hickey who lives across the street. “Battle Creek is better than that.”

Calhoun County agreed. County officials met Thursday in front of the dilapidated home to announce they’ve been awarded $3,800,000 from the state to combat blight. They’re going to use the money to tear down 250 homes in Battle Creek and the surrounding cities and townships.

“We’re going to be able to get rid of those and stabilize these neighborhoods and make them safer for those residents,” said Calhoun County Treasurer Christine Schauer. “We’re really pleased.”

Schauer said when homes are left vacant for an extended period of time, the neighborhood’s property value plummets. They attract vermin and sometimes crime.

“They are also dangerous,” said Schauer. “If kids go in, mess around, even they might get hurt.”

Hickey said no one in the neighborhood goes near the house. He mows the front lawn from time to time but he’s the only one, and the last person, to get close to it. The family who used to live there left three years ago after a fire broke out.

“It was the son of the owner, and the dog had an injury. It knocked the heater over, caught the house on fire which made it inhabitable,” said Hickey. “Had that not of happened the house might’ve been able to have been fixed. But the foundation is bad.”

Schauer, who also serves as chair of the Land Bank, said they have 18 months to use the grant. They’re checking each of the homes now for contaminants and the first ones will be demolished in the spring of 2017.

Hickey said neighbors already know what they want to do with it.

“I would love to purchase it,” said Hickey. “But we would love to be able to use it as a garden, a community garden.”