TNP to continue fighting blight in coming years

Staff photo /Mason Cole Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Executive Director Matt Martin points to remediation done at the site of the now-demolished St. Joseph Riverside Hospital, calling it the “poster-child” of what the organization has done in the past 10 years.

WARREN — Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Executive Director Matt Martin called the site of the now-demolished St. Joseph Riverside Hospital the “poster-child” of what TNP has done over the last decade in the county and what it looks to continue achieving in coming years.

“That was a team effort; everyone was involved with that one,” Martin said.

Martin said the demolition of the site and subsequent remediation involved help from TNP, the Trumbull County Land Bank, as well as Warren city officials.

The teardown was conducted in late 2022 through a $3.4 million grant for the environmental remediation and demolition, which was awarded through the Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program.

In June, TNP was awarded $20,000 by AARP Ohio, or the American Association of Retired Persons, to help make over the former hospital site. TNP also received $30,000 from the Ohio Department of Development, $10,000 from the city of Warren, and $1,800 in other donations to go toward the project.

Last week, Martin fought through the cold wind and snow to walk through the site of the former hospital with its new amenities. Concrete benches line the 2,000-foot gravel pathway at Riverside Park, allowing those who visit a place to rest their legs and look out upon the approximately 100 saplings planted across the 52-acre lot.

“(This) was a huge one,” Martin said. “We were involved with hosting rallies to tear that building down going back at least a decade. That’s been something that has been a drumbeat we’ve heard throughout this whole process the last 10 years. It finally came down and got a little bit of new life last year.”

The St. Joseph Riverside Hospital demolition and remediation was one of many projects TNP has worked on in Warren and throughout the rest of Trumbull County since it launched in 2010.

According to the organization’s 2024 parcel inventory update for Warren, the total number of vacant houses in the city has dropped from 1,532 in 2013 to 435 this year.

Martin said about two-thirds of the more than 1,100 former vacant homes have been demolished with the rest having been renovated.

“While we’re not the only show in town, of course there is the private market and some properties went from vacant to occupied through other means, I do think that our activity had a lot to do with it,” Martin said. “Countywide, we’ve done over 1,300 demolitions total and over 700 renovations total in that decade.”

Of the 435 vacant houses recorded in the 2024 survey, most are found in the city’s 6th Ward, which has 120. The 3rd Ward has the fewest with 21. For TNPs study, 7,859 vacant lots were surveyed throughout Warren, the most being 2,379 in the 7th Ward and the fewest being 318 in the 3rd Ward.

“We’ve done over 1,300 demos, and I’ve never had a neighbor complain about a property coming down,” Martin said.

According to the 2024 Warren parcel inventory, the city has struggled with a high number of vacant homes because of rapid population decline largely as a result of industry loss.

Warren Mayor Doug Franklin said the removal of blight through TNP and city programs has proved to be a huge benefit.

“(The city) looks quite different just in terms of just the removal of blighted, vacant properties,” Franklin said. “But it also gives us opportunity and a canvas to reimagine what we can put on those sites.”

Franklin said TNP has been vital to the city as it pursues its goal of removing all blighted properties.

“We set out an ambitious goal years ago to remove every single vacant, abandoned, dilapidated property in the city of Warren,” Franklin said. “As those numbers bear out, we’re well on our way. … (TNP) has been champions for our neighborhoods.”

TNP’s work in 2023 was not limited to Warren.

According to the organization’s annual report, TNP and the land bank had 88 residential demolitions, three commercial demolitions and two private demolitions in 2023.

The report states that “The Land Bank applied for and was awarded $12.5 million through the Ohio Department of Development Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program grant to perform demolitions on 236 locations in November.”

The report states 1,969 vacant lots have been sold to date, along with 233 side-lot sales and six commercial vacant lot sales.

For some parts of Trumbull County, certain demolitions and remediation would be deemed impossible if not for partnerships with TNP and the land bank.

In Brookfield, Trustee Dan Suttles said TNP and the land bank helped with the demolition of a gas station on U.S. Route 62 called Fuel Express, which long sat vacant as a nuisance property. He said TNP also helped the ensuing remediation of the site.

The gas station property had three underground tanks, a building, a canopy and four pumps that all needed to be removed.

“It was something we wouldn’t have been able to afford to do with our money,” Suttles said.

A grant for $250,000 from the Ohio Development Services Agency paid for the entire project in 2019.

Suttles said TNP and the land bank helped get the site ready for its next owner by planting grass. He added, “it was like you’d never know something was on that lot.”

“They stepped right in and that property has since been developed (with) a new convenience store and with a gas station put back on the property adjacent to that,” Suttles said. “They’ve helped us immensely.”

The Warren parcel report details recommendations and actions that can be taken to remediate or reimagine formerly vacant properties.

The report states that “after an intense community-wide focus on residential blight remediation for the past decade, an emphasis on the remediation and reuse of commercial sites will be vital moving forward.”

Some suggestions listed in the report for the remediation of vacant land include turning the sites into public gardens or green spaces, as well as selling vacant parcels of land to homeowners on adjacent properties to use at side lots.

Last year was also the fifth year of TNP’s emergency home repair program.

According to the annual report, TNP helped 118 households with 155 total repairs throughout the year. Fifty-two of the houses were in Warren with 66 being throughout the rest of Trumbull County.

Home repairs included electrical issues, plumbing problems, issues with roofs and gutters, HVAC repairs, the improvement of handicap accessibility as well as other repairs.

Funding for the emergency home repairs was obtained from the city of Warren, Trumbull County commissioners, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Cincinnati and the ODOD housing assistance grant program.

Martin said the emergency home repair program is one of the steps TNP takes to prevent vacancies in the first place.

“What we’ve really learned I think is that if we can help folks make the most basic, substantial mechanical repairs to their properties, that’s going to help preserve their home ownership,” Martin said. “In other words, if somebody needs to choose between paying their taxes, insurance, or fixing a huge hole in their roof, then that is a situation that can start to devolve. Next thing you know that person can be out of a home and that house is another vacant one.”

Martin said TNP looks to proactively reach out to individuals who own their homes and income-qualify for the various programs. He said TNP looks for programs through various levels of government to have the resources available when a homeowner is in need of emergency repairs.

Emergency home repairs are just one of the many factors TNP will be focusing on in the near future.

Martin said TNP has focused on demolitions for the past 10 years but says TNP is at the end of the decade where it focused on demolitions and “the vacant property triage.” However, he noted that there always will be blighted properties to demolish.

Martin said TNP is making sure it is caught up on its commercial demolitions and brownfield remediation, which he described as cleaning up post-industrial sites that are dirty from previous use and need more than just a structure removed.

Martin also pointed to home ownership as a key focus for TNP going forward.

“We’re going to be looking at doing new, single-family construction,” he said.

Martin said TNP is looking to start pilot projects, building single family homes on sites that it selects along with Warren officials.

“We don’t want to just tear down houses forever, I think we want to rebuild at this point in addition to renovate,” Martin said.



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