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Syracuse land bank 'bearing fruit' 5 years in

Ellen Abbott
Sam Reppi is converting this dilapidated 1890 building, which he acquired through the Greater Syracuse Land Bank, into apartments and a storefront business.

The Greater Syracuse Land Bank celebrated its fifth birthday this week with a bus trip to show off some of it’s success stories.  

Land bank officials and others visited demolition sights, a community garden and renovated rental housing, like Sam Reppi’s conversion of a dilapidated building on Burnet Avenue into apartments and a storefront business.

Reppi has already sunk more than $100,000 into the circa 1890 building. He's a big fan of the the land bank approach to revitalizing city neighborhoods by buying tax delinquent properties and either demolishing or selling them.

"This is how you rebuild neighborhoods," Reppi said. "One property at a time, one investor at a time.”

Since it was established five years ago, the Greater Syracuse Land Bank has bought 1,338 properties, sold 450 of them and demolished more than 175 blighted buildings. That adds up to than $17 million in private investment, and $800,000 a year in property taxes.

Executive Director Katelyn Wright says the land bank is bearing fruit, but looking forward, finds itself in a bind after city lawmakers slashed $1.5 million in funding for the land bank out of this year’s city budget.

"We’ll be able to continue projects like this with investors coming in to renovate and those success stories will continue, but we’re way backed up on demolitions," Wright said. "We've got 300 properties that need to come down. That’s $6 million of expense we’re looking at. We don’t have $6 million to take down those buildings.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.