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Syracuse Land Bank reports on progess in first year

Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank/City of Syracuse
The Syracuse Land Bank demolished it's first vacant home Monday.

After a year on the job, the Greater Syracuse Area Land Bank has issued its first progress report, which notes that several steps have been taken to start reclaiming Syracuse neighborhoods from dilapidated and decaying homes.

First the numbers. The Syracuse Land Bank has acquired 165 properties across Syracuse over the past year. Twelve have been sold or have sales pending; 21 are currently for sale; 26 are slated for demolition;  and 57 are vacant lots.

All were seized by the city for back taxes and sold to the land bank. Sharon Sherman, who is on the community group advising the land bank, sees the process giving hope to some neighborhood groups.

“Because they see properties that have been sitting there vacant for years, now have those brand new owned by land bank signs on them, and they’re being fixed up,” said Sherman.
To continue its job, the land bank is asking for $2 million from the city of Syraucse in its upcoming budget. But the idea is to eventually become self-sufficient. The land bank's board chairman, Vito Sciscioli, guesses they’ll know in about three years if that’s possible.

"If our sales can generate a lot of capital, that could be a loan source that would be revolving, that would put us on the path to sustainability.”

The other thing the land bank says it plans to do more of in the future, is deconstruction instead of demolition. Land Bank Executive Director Katelyn Wright says even though it costs more than demolition, there are plusses to taking part an old building piece by piece.

"It’ll provide more jobs, it’s more environmentally sustainable, I think those materials can generate a little economy of their own if they stay local, so we’re excited to see what’s entailed in issuing an RFP (request for proposal) for deconstruction contractors to come in and address some of these buildings," said Wright.

Wright also noted that the Land Bank has a new website, where she says you’ll find information about how properties are acquired, and how to buy some of the properties the land bank now owns.

“In the past, you could see all the properties that we owned, and it didn’t really distinguish which ones were available right now, and which ones we might be in the process of renovating, so they’re not available just yet. So this website does a much better jobs at distinguishing between those and directing people towards the ones that are available today,” said Wright.

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.