By Ed Runyan
Walt and Dee Dee Stec of 321 Washington Street Northeast didn’t need an incentive to purchase the property next to them after it became available a year ago after demolition of the home that was on it.
They had been taking care of the property since it became vacant several years ago because they care about the neighborhood and want it to look nice.
But over the past year, the Trumbull County Land Bank made the property available for less than $500, and the Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership and Huntington Bank created a program that would help them fix up the lot.
They jumped at the chance to use both programs and today own the 88-foot-by-160-foot lot next to their house and have a set of emerald green arborvitae at the front of the lot.
The vacant lot will be used for a swing and other outdoor activities not possible on the small back yard at their house.
The arborvitae, a type of pine tree, someday will make the property more private, Walt said Friday as they invited the news media to their home to demonstrate both programs.
“It’s not the best neighborhood, but it’s our neighborhood,” Walt said, nodding toward a house just up the block where prostitutes congregate.
There have been violent assaults, a murder and a recent pizza-shop robbery not far away.
“Every city has its issues, and ours has its issues. We’re the ones sticking around and trying to make a difference,” he said.
Matt Martin, project manager for the nonprofit Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership, told the Stecs about the side-lot program a year ago and helped them get involved in it.
He also told them about the Huntington Bank side-lot incentive program recently and helped them get involved in that as well.
It provides $10,000 — $500 gift cards good at Lowe’s to the buyers of 20 side lots through the land bank — to help the buyers fix up their new side lots.
“A lot of the residents have maintained the lots since before the land bank started, so we wanted to offer them an incentive,” Martin said.
About half of the gift cards have been awarded, and 306 side lots have been sold through the land bank since it started 18 months ago, said county Treasurer Sam Lamancusa, who is chairman of the Land Bank.
Many of the side lots are vacant parcels in Warren, but others are in Newton Falls, Girard, Niles, Weathersfield Township, McDonald, Liberty and Southington.
It’s a blessing for us,” Dee Dee Stec said of the $500 gift card.