From where Scott Henry sits — directing one of the lead agencies charged with controlling blight and razing dilapidated properties in the city of Erie — this year is almost certain to bring plenty of work his way.
One reason is the launch of a first-of-its-kind agreement between the city and Erie County government will provide crucial funding to deal with problem properties within city limits.
Mayor Joe Schember has made clear that he wants Henry, the executive director of the Erie Redevelopment Authority, to help lead efforts to combat blight in a city where thousands of homes are severely distressed.
And the Redevelopment Authority is working more closely than ever with various neighborhood groups to identify problem properties and forge plans to either demolish or rehabilitate them.
“This year, we’re looking to really build off of what we did in 2018 and be even more proactive,” Henry said. “We have access to money that we haven’t had before, and that is going to make a big difference.”
According to Redevelopment Authority statistics, the agency initiated the acquisition of 28 properties in the city during 2018, which means the authority started the often lengthy legal process of obtaining ownership of those properties.
Ten of those properties were torn down, and three are being rehabilitated by private owners.
The remaining 15 properties are in various stages of the eminent domain process, Henry said. Eminent domain refers to the power of government to take private property and convert it into public use; however, government must provide just compensation to the property owners.
All of that 2018 work, including demolition, cost about $120,000, Henry said.