Montgomery tackles blight problem, more eyesores knocked down

Montgomery tackles blighted housing problem

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Demolition crews leveled the 435th eyesore in Montgomery, making way for opportunity in the city.

“It’s energizing and encouraging because it has been something of a journey,” said Tracy Larkin, District 3 City Commissioner. “Blight is being removed and diminished and neighborhoods will be cleaner and safer places.”

For the last three years, District 3 City Commissioner Tracy Larkin has championed the city’s plan to remediate 435 abandoned and blighted properties in the community. He was joined by Mayor Todd Strange and other city leaders Thursday to watch as the structure on Mobile Highway was leveled.

As dust settled at the site, the city turned attention to the next phase of tackling blight. The city has established a vacant building registry to track homes that need remediation or demolition. Public Works Director Chris Conway says there are roughly 320 on the city’s to-list and work is already underway.

“This represents the 435, but we’ve already affected 500 or so the three year period,” said Conway.

The city is also looking at securing more funding to get more done.

“We increased dramatically to about 400,000 three years ago and it’s up to about 500,000,” said Larkin. “Some cities allocate 2-3 million. We’re still at about half a million. We look to find the resources to increase funding so we can have more contractors take them down.”

Because of the tighter budget - the city says it’s had to narrow the scope of demolition projects and focus on smaller projects in residential areas. Smaller homes cost the city about $3,000 to tear down a fraction of what it would cost for vacant commercial development.

“That’s 1.2 million that we’ve spent on over 500 structures to come down. You think about an apartment complex or a larger hotel that needs to come down. They might be a half million dollar job in and of itself. You want to get 435 - 500 taken care of or you want to do 1 - 2 a year?” said Conway.

For those living and working in the communities surrounded by blight - they’re happy to see it go.

Leon Carr lives within walking distance of the demo site on Mobile Highway and works at Eagle Battery a few doors down from the abandoned building. He was glad to know he won’t see the boarded up building anymore - not just because he hated seeing it, but because he felt like it diminished the historical significance of the area.

“Nice that it’s gone because it’s an eyesore," said Carr. “I have walked behind Dr. Martin Luther King walking up this road here as a young kid. We don’t need these bad looking places on the trail. It’s great to see it torn down.”

Now that the space is open, like many other lots since the city started the aggressive demolition project, the community sees hope.

“I want to see something for the kids. I want to see something for our older adults,” said James Lewis.

“A brighter day is coming when we remove blight," said Larkin.

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