1/27/2009

Genessee St. - What's the story?

Posted by MJ





(Images - Residences on Genessee St. Lockport NY.)

Genesee St. has appeared to have taken a turn lately. I wondered if this change was a sign of accelerated decline or some other type of transition. Driving down the street one gets the feeling that every other structure has auction sign, a for sale sign, window boards or just looks vacant.
Grey areas such as these usually continue to decline as other residents scared fo their investments tend to try to "cut their losses". While there are people out there with a pioneering spirit and an overabundance of elbow grease, they are in a small minority. Especially when it comes to the intial (and riskiest) investments to get an area moving forward again. Government apathy can dwindle those numbers down even more.
It would comforting to know that there is some kind of action to deal with this trend in that area. If not for the fate of the neighborhood, then just for the fate of some of great old houses of the like which we may never see built again. All I see see is opportunity for the street, but I know it will only continue downward and spread block by block if left alone to sprawl based market forces and usual gov't policies. Just look at the disinvestment wave in the east side of Buffalo and its push across the Cheektowaga town line.
From an e-mail session back and forth with Mayor Tucker, it appears the city is not only aware but active. The city primarily relies on residents of a neighborhood to report problem properties. Once in the system, codes are enforced. this is what the city is limited to until a property owner gets into tax arrears. At that point that the property can be taken into city control. It is the recent focus on code enforcement in this area that Mayor Tucker attributes to the rise in the number of houses being abandoned and put up for sale.
Instead of just using the hands off approach of selling all the properties to the highest bidder at auction, the city has targeted certain ones to become more involved with. Taken off the auction list, they are offered to interested parties. The city would check backgrounds, references, and that the potentail owner has solid plans for the property being offered. The goal here is to try to ensure that a property is not picked up by a hands-off owner for $5k, rented out immediately with no improvements and milked for profits until untimately abandoned again.
The tremendous challenge that sits here for both the city and home owners also lends to great opportunity if done right and nurtured early on.
Any residents that can chime in on their experiences? What should the long range vision be?

4 comments:

Liz said...

I was at this last property auction and couldn't believe how cheaply houses were being sold. The brick building in question came up for auction and no one was bidding on it. I didn't understand why, not realizing this section was considered a not very good section of Lockport. Coming from Buffalo's West side, it sure looks alright to me! Ironically, one of the highest bid properties at the auction was a vacant piece of land that I bought because it belongs to my yard and somehow was split off at a previous auction when the previous owner left the area.

I would have LOVED to have purchased the brick building and bring it back to it's former glory. Perhaps if it's still available in the future, I just might do that. But as you said, it seemed most of the people at the auction were there to pick up property cheap, make minimal improvements and send it off to the rental market.

I also have a problem property next door to me. It brings the whole area down. When I tell people how to get to my house, I tell them look for the abandoned house next door. Not exactly how you want to introduce people to your new house and city.

It seems as though the city's hands are tied on this one. The owner does "just enough" to make it appear as though he is making progress with the property. He is apparently current on his taxes. He bought the property at auction, and it was previously on the city's demolish list. So that brings the question of why did they even offer it for sale?

Unfortunately most people know how to milk the system to keep skirting by. As many changes as have been made, much more needs to be done. It's really a shame to see a city with such potential languish.

Rocketboy said...
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Rocketboy said...
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MJ said...

I didn't realize the comments were ever not working. Good to know.

Everything is relative. So the bad part of Lockport is still the bad part of Lockport which is nothing compared to the urban prairies dotted with vacant structures in Buffalo and NF. But in an area with a stagnant or lowing population, the lowest areas will still be the riskiest investments without incentives to get them going again.

My house had a house two doors down that was vacant with the front door blowing in the wind when I bought mine. things like that don't phase me but do so to most people. It has since been fully gutted and reneovated thankfully. When I sela my drive, I see others inspired to do the same. When I see someone freshly staining their porch, I feel inspired to do the same. the inertia can be turned.

The best thing is to have an active street of people who at least know each other and can find comfort that others are investing, sticking around etc. It would also provide a good bridge for ouside people looking to invest in a some nearby owners that could fill them in and welcome their presence added to the street.

People come an go on a street but having a "leader" type to provide consitancy and a voice to a street/neighborhood can go a long way. Not many people want to be that person, but are willing to chip in and help that type of person out. It provides a theoretical anchor as opposed to everyone feeling the sreet/neighborhood is just drifting to an unknown destiny. It is all the better when that leader can communicate that city is also being active about it.

I'm all for STRONG incentives to take doubles back to singles and rooming houses back to at least doubles. It does pay off in the long run as opposed to continuous sliding of assesments along the streets when nothing is done. Long term vision for prosperity must exist.

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