Our view: Battle against blight gets $400,000 of teeth
In every neighborhood of Duluth, rundown houses and other blighted properties are leaving the impression that the city doesn't care, that Duluthians have given up. With some of those structures standing empty for a decade or more, it's hard to ar...
In every neighborhood of Duluth, rundown houses and other blighted properties are leaving the impression that the city doesn't care, that Duluthians have given up. With some of those structures standing empty for a decade or more, it's hard to argue otherwise.
In a long overdue move, the Duluth Economic Development Authority -- whose members double as the Duluth City Council -- voted Monday to provide up to $400,000 to buy and tear down condemned and deteriorating structures. About 120 properties -- yes, 120 in a city of 86,000 people -- already have been identified as candidates for demolition. About 10 to 15 will be put on the short list for demolition, a big improvement over the two or three derelict structures that were taken down in previous years.
The effort, handled by the city's Housing and Redevelopment Authority, follows an announcement last month by Iron Range Resources to revive its long-dormant Building Demolition Program, which slates $1 million for the demolition of about 100 properties.
So where's the city money coming from? Turns out there is a 25-year financing district created by city officials in 1990 to improve the city's housing stock, much of which dates back to the first half of the 20th century. The "scattered site" district (as opposed to a district with clear boundaries) generates about $50,000 to $60,000 per year in property taxes, pouring the cash into a fund. The fund was tapped once already, in 2001, to remove about 40 dilapidated buildings, many in the Ramsey neighborhood of West Duluth.
Previously, the only message Duluth officials sent about blighted properties was the black eye of boarded up windows, if even that, on longstanding eyesores. The broken window syndrome of blighted properties becoming accepted as part of the cityscape ruled the day.
That day is now history. The DEDA action, and $400,000 behind it, has the potential to usher in a new era in which Duluth does care, and no one has given up.