Grand Rapids demolishes homes for Fresh Start


The national Fresh Start campaign already has started in Detroit and Saginaw. More than 100 properties in Grand Rapids are set to be demolished. Courtesy

The blight blitz in Grand Rapids began on Thursday.

Kent County Treasurer and Kent County Land Bank Chairman and founder Ken Parrish helped launch a new clean-up initiative in the city on Thursday that will demolish 100 vacant and dangerous residential eyesores, which makes it the largest housing-demolition program in Grand Rapids history.

Parrish was joined at the kickoff event by City Commissioner and KCLBA board member Rosalynn Bliss, Michigan State Housing Development Authority Executive Director Scott Woosley and other local, state and federal officials.

The kickoff for the new initiative, officially known as Fresh Start, was held at 738 Franklin St. SE, the address of an abandoned and foreclosed home that Parrish, Bliss and others began demolishing.

Funding for Fresh Start, which is a national campaign, came from the U.S. Treasury Department through its Troubled Asset Relief Program. Treasury made $100 million available to Michigan for its blight blitz and the state awarded Grand Rapids $2.5 million of that total for the city’s effort.

City officials then contracted with the land bank to oversee the demolition process and KCLBA Executive Director Dave Allen estimated the money Grand Rapids received would cover the cost to demolish 100 blighted residential properties.

Twenty-six of the homes targeted to be razed were purchased from the city by the land bank, a portion of the 158 tax-foreclosed properties KCLBA bought from Grand Rapids in July. Most of the 100 houses on the demolition schedule were either fire burned or are full of mold.

“Our goal is to have those down by the end of the year,” said Allen.

The demolition work is being bid by the land bank and being done according to city guidelines. Once the sites are cleared the properties will be sold for redevelopment.

Other Michigan cities involved in the Fresh Start campaign are Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw and Detroit. The program has a goal of removing 78,000 abandoned properties in the state.

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