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Charleston Eyes Grant To Tear Down West Side Abandoned Homes

Reported: May. 6, 2014 10:28 PM EDT
Updated: May. 7, 2014 5:51 AM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kera Mashek) -- A new effort could soon get under way to help fix up the image of Charleston's West Side. The hope is to get grant money to pay for bulldozing abandoned homes

The city is pretty optimistic about this grant opportunity because it's federal money designated to improve areas where crime has been a problem. Looking at just the past few weeks, with multiple shootings, the West Side makes a pretty good candidate.

Cheryl Patrick has lived on Charleston's West Side for 10 years. She said the neighborhood has bright spots, but acknowledges it also has some serious problems. For her, a lot of the issues are centered on the abandoned home right next door.

"We've had to call police officers a number of times due to people up on the porch or on the abandoned property or coming around our property to get to it," Patrick said.

In fact recently, one of the suspects charged in the murder of Tymel McKinney hid out near the home next to Patrick's before police caught him. And the city said that is a common problem with abandoned homes on the West Side.

"These structures are being used as hiding places for wanted criminals or drug houses or prostitution," said Melissa Taylor, grant administrator for the city of Charleston.

Those concerns are at the heart of the city's latest grant initiative. If approved, the federal grant would pay for tearing down abandoned houses on the West Side. It's funding that's needed since demolishing just one house costs $7,000 on average.

"We feel if we get rid of those blighted and abandoned structures then that would actually open up the area and get rid of a lot of locations and it would be less problems for law enforcement and actually having less places that they have to search and less hidey holes," Taylor said.

The city says it's not that entire streets are bad. In fact there are areas with several nice homes in a row. But then two doors down there are boarded up homes like this that need help.

The city's convinced tearing down those trouble spots will force criminals out, draw positive attention, and bring the community together.

"I'm hoping by doing this, we actually give neighbors, the residents over there, something to be proud of and something to look at and say you know, 'The city actually cares about us over here.' And if the people care, they start watching out for their neighbors. They start watching out for crimes in their neighborhood, and they pick up that phone if they see something and call 911," Taylor said.

Typically, when the city tears a home down, the neighbors get the first chance to buy it and use it for green space, or adding onto their property. But many on the West Side say even an empty lot is more appealing, and better for property values, than a run down house. The city should find out if it will get the grant this summer, and demolitions could potentially start in the fall.



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