House torn down with BDC help

LOCAL NEWS FEB 16, 2016       WELLSBURG – A house at 118 Fourth St. is the latest to be razed through the efforts of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle. BDC Executive Director Pat Ford said the lot occupied by the two-story house will be donated to the Brooke County Salvation Army, whose service center sits across from it. Ford said the house was acquired by Wells Fargo, the international banking and financial services firm, as part of its Urban Stabilization program. Through the program, the company acquires houses for which back taxes are owed, pays them and works with other entities to rehabilitate them for residents with low to moderate incomes. A faith-based organization, such as a church or charity, is involved in an application process that determines the home’s future occupant, who takes on monthly payments toward the home’s purchase. But in this case, the house was deemed uninhabitable, so it was demolished and the Salvation Army will get the lot, Ford said. The Brooke County Salvation Army advisory council hasn’t determined how the lot will be used, though a small park and a parking area have been suggested. Wellsburg Mayor Sue Simonetti said the house had been unoccupied for several years and it was good to see it wasn’t left to become a hazard to the community. Ford noted the house is one of five the BDC has acquired in cooperation with Wells Fargo, which awarded the economic development organization a $40,000 grant for the renovation or demolition of such houses in Brooke and Hancock counties. The endeavor began with renovations to a Beech Bottom home on Clendenon Street that was home to a local woman last year, with the BDC also removing a dilapidated structure adjacent to the home. The BDC also has demolished three Weirton homes – one at 3105 Elm St., whose lot the Weirton Christian Center plans to use for a community garden; 184 Culler Road, sold to adjacent property owners for use, enabling the BDC to recoup the demolition’s cost; and 226 North 20th St. Ford said the BDC seeks a faith-based organization to take on the final lot, which is in a residential area. “This initiative will help us tremendously in the panhandle, because we just do not have enough money to take care of all of these homes that have been abandoned,” Bill D’Alesio, chairman of the BDC’s board, said. “It really is a good opportunity to work with our partners in Brooke and Hancock counties to spark some revitalization. It’s not going to be a silver bullet. But I think our housing effort, coupled with our repurposing of abandoned factories in Brooke and Hancock counties, can provide an impetus for some strategic revitalization efforts,” Ford said. In an effort not involving Wells Fargo, the BDC has used a $25,000 grant from Huntington Bank to acquire two vacant homes on Main Street in New Cumberland. Ford said those structures sit in the floodplain, which imposes restrictions on new construction on their lots, so there are plans to raze them.