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Temporary Valpo City Hall

The city's temporary headquarters during renovations at City Hall, the former Hayes Leonard Elementary School, 653 Hayes Leonard Road. 

VALPARAISO — The city is speeding up the demolition process for unsafe residential buildings as the Redevelopment Commission helps cover the legal costs.

Building Commissioner Vicki Thrasher said the city has been more effective in taking out blighted and unsafe properties in the city with the extra legal help, which started earlier this year.

“As you might suspect, this is a very specific legal procedure. The processes involve things like 14th Amendment rights, due process and no undue seizure of property, so there's some additional hoops to get through,” said Stu Summers, executive director of the RDC. “Hiring special legal counsel helps speed that up so everything follows that procedure.”

The RDC is aiding in the demolition process as a way to help rid the city of unsafe living spaces but also to help property values around the blighted buildings.

“My department and the RDC were essentially on the same path regarding this,” Thrasher said. “As our interests meshed it made sense to have a partnership.”

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Summers acknowledged the process is expensive, but the long term costs and the benefits to public safety are worth it.

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“When a building on Indiana Avenue burned out, we ended up in a situation where it cost more to buy and tear it down than it did to sell it off,” he said. “But it removed a blemish on that part of the community and it ended up having these residuals, like increased property values, that everyone ends up benefiting from.”

Thrasher has been focused on six buildings, with one at 1009 Calumet Ave. already demolished, four more awaiting demolition and another three getting ready for a hearing at the Board of Public Works Aug. 9.

Summer said he'd like to see the land from the buildings demolished used for new housing developments in the future.

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