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Sawyer buildings demolition eyed

November 19, 2012
By JOHN PEPIN - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

K.I. SAWYER - The Marquette County Land Bank Authority is hoping to secure half a million dollars in grant funding to demolish several multi-unit residential structures and garages at K.I. Sawyer, which have been vacant since the U.S. Air Force base closed there in 1995.

Grant funding is available in Michigan through a 2012 Blight Elimination Program, which is the result of a lawsuit settlement with five of the country's largest mortgage service providers.

Of a total of $97.2 million allocated to Michigan, $25 million is being directed to blight elimination. Of that money, $10 million is slated for projects in the city of Detroit, with the remaining $15 million to be distributed to demolition projects in communities across the state.

Article Photos

The exterior of buildings on Panther Street near K.I. Sawyer Elementary School are part of proposed demolition work. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)

"I feel we have a pretty strong application," said Ann Giroux, chairwoman of the authority, who characterized the opportunity as "very exciting."

"Demolition funding is really tough to come by," Giroux said. "This money needs to be geographically disbursed. There is intent to spread this around, which is great for us."

A total of 15 structures and 21 garages are expected to be foreclosed on April 1 at K.I. Sawyer for non-payment of property taxes. Those structures would be demolished if funding is approved.

The buildings - which have been targeted by vandals and are in advanced disrepair - are located along Warhawk, Raider, Stratofort and Panther streets, near K.I. Sawyer Elementary School.

The county board voted unanimously Tuesday to approve a letter of support for the effort. Pending the grant funding being awarded and the properties being foreclosed on, the county also approved exercising its option to purchase the parcels and transfer them to the authority.

"The Marquette County Board of Commissioners is pleased to support the Marquette County Land Bank Authority's application for funding through the 2012 Blight Elimination Program," Marquette County Board Chairwoman Deborah Pellow wrote in the letter.

A minimum bid of $88,782 would be offered by the county, which is the amount of the delinquent taxes on the properties. Funding for the purchase would be derived from the Marquette County Treasurer's Foreclosure Fund.

The Marquette County Place-Based Targeting Strategy, which was previously submitted to the state Housing and Development Authority, stated that many of the buildings at K.I. Sawyer are "functionally obsolete," and are "unlikely to be used in their present form."

"Asbestos and lead paint have been identified in these buildings, which were built mainly in the 1950s and 1960s," the strategy read. "Demolition of these buildings will significantly improve the aesthetic appeal of the community and allow for new development with existing infrastructure."

The demolition project is the latest attempt by the authority to renovate blighted properties across the county. Since its creation in 2009, the authority has marked several successes, including demolition of a school in west Ishpeming and redevelopment of several housing units.

"You're doing a heck of a job for Marquette County," Commissioner Gerald Corkin told Giroux.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.



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