by Michael R. Allen
I think that the problem is obvious: There are brand-new houses next door to vacant buildings. However, in this strange case, the new houses were built before the houses next door went vacant.
There are three vacant houses at 2731, 2733 and 2735 Bacon Street adjacent to the three new houses built lovingly by Habitat for Humanity. Across the street are more new homes by Habitat. This block has turned around from a drug-infested, vacant-lot-strewn area into a stable place.
However, in the midst of this uplift came a company called Sheridan Place LC, controlled by McEagle Properties. In 2006 and 2007, Sheridan Place bought up dozens of houses like these, making sure the residents moved out before closing the sales. That’s right — all three of the houses on Bacon were occupied before being purchased by McEagle.
Why did McEagle need to buy these houses at all? By the time the purchases happened, the Habitat for Humanity development was completed, and new residents had moved in. The three well-kept homes next door were a sign of stability to newcomers on Bacon, but not for long.
On the other side of the new houses on this side of Bacon is another Sheridan Place special at 2745 Bacon Street, missing its windows and wearing the red boards put on it by the Building Division. The Habitat for Humanity homes are book-ended by vacant buildings that were purchased for a large-scale project that has little to do with this block. Because of Habitat’s fine work, which should be honored and not insulted by crass speculation, this block can’t be subsumed by development. But its vacant homes can be held hostage in a phased development where JeffVanderLou is the last phase scheduled to be completed. These houses still could be vacant in 2025 or later.
McEagle has no business owning these houses. The city should not follow good money with bad by letting the developer hoard houses around areas that have been successfully redeveloped. The city’s redevelopment agreement with McEagle should require the sale of houses like these on Bacon. If McEagle receives 50% of the purchase prices back in Distressed Areas Land Assemblage Tax Credits, as is expected, then the developer should be able to quickly sell off houses like these at affordable prices. After all, the NorthSide project is supposed to fill in the gaps, not create more.