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1111 Broadway Ave., Over-the-Rhine

By · September 24th, 2003 · Blight of the Week
  1111 Broadway Ave.
April L. Martin

1111 Broadway Ave.

Address: 1111 Broadway Ave., Over-the-Rhine

Owner: Robert and Debra Desgrange

Year Built: 1874

Current Value: $36,300

Comments: There are 1,247 abandoned buildings in the city of Cincinnati and 50 city building inspectors responsible for overseeing them.

"Cincinnati is an older city with a lot of historical buildings," says William Langevin, director of the Department of Buildings and Inspections. "The number of vacant buildings in the city aren't terribly egregious compared with Detroit or Philadelphia."

An inspector's job can be hazardous.

A few years ago an inspector was threatened with a gun; several months ago a German shepherd attacked another. Even without that kind of danger, building inspectors encounter hazardous conditions in abandoned buildings.

A property owner has 30 days to comply with orders from the city once a building is deemed abandoned.

"If people are trying to fix it, we will work with them," says Ronald Thomas, the department's assistant director.

Robert and Debra Desgrange have owned the property at 1111 Broadway Ave. for five years; it has been vacant for three years. Robert Desgrange cites his former tenants as the reason for the property's condition.

"Every time I would fix it up, they would tear it up," he says. "Put in a new toilet, they would steal it. There was a bunch of crack heads living there."

The front part of the building has been boarded up. Last summer, according to a neighbor, the back wall had to be torn off where stairs once were.

The owners had until Sept. 20 to comply with city orders on the rear of the property. Robert Desgrange says he's sold it to an organization that has plans to turn it into condos and apartments.

Failure to comply with repair orders can lead to a citation requiring an appearance in the Housing Court docket at Hamilton County Municipal Court. Several building owners have spent time in jail for violations.

"Fix it up, demolish it or sell it," Langevin says. "We mean business and sooner or later the building owner will have to tangle with us, and we try our best to make it an unpleasant experience."

In many cases owners can't be found, have moved out of state or died, Langevin says. When this happens, a building is sold in a sheriff's sale, usually for pennies on the dollar. The biggest explanation given owners of dilapidated property is lack of money, Langevin says.

"They buy condemned buildings that they hope will be investments or they will be awarded a government grant that will help them fix the property up," he says.

If a building has been abandoned for a long time and is beyond repair, the city can condemn it. If the building has to be razed, it's often at the expense of taxpayers. Last year it cost the city $468,000 to demolish buildings.

BLIGHT OF THE WEEK is an effort to highlight the problem of abandoned buildings -- and who's responsible for them.


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