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Area likely to remain green space in Sterling

After demolition, city’s options limited on some grant projects

STERLING – A half-block vacant lot created by the demolition of distressed rental units near the Manahan Home is likely to be dressed up as green space.

The property at 608-620 E. Third St. was the first acquired for demolition almost 5 years ago through the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

One small commercial building and eight residential units were razed. The apartments were foreclosed in November 2009, and in June 2010 the City Council voted to tear them down.

The city became involved in the housing program in 2010, receiving nearly $2.8 million from a federal grant. The main objective of the program is to buy and rehab or rebuild foreclosed or abandoned properties, which then are sold to low- and moderate-income families.

Rebuilding at this site is not an option, though. The buildings that were torn down had been put up lot line to lot line, and the space is not considered to be a buildable lot, said Mike Wolber, the city’s former building and zoning coordinator who leads the grant program.

“We’ll probably dress it up a bit and leave it as open green space,” Wolber said. “It’s across from the Manahan Home, so we could plant some flowers, put some benches in, and use it as a resting area.”

The city’s options also are limited by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s grant requirements.

The city could sell the property, but HUD says it must be sold to adjoining property owners, and it must house low-income residents. The property also can’t be donated to anyone else. That would rule out giving it to the Manahan Home on both counts.

“We haven’t made a decision yet,” Wolber said. “The city may just keep it.”

If the area continues to be used as green space, it must remain city property.

Some work has been done there, including the planting of trees a couple years ago, City Manager Scott Shumard said.

“Given the grant stipulations, there are no real plans for the property at this time,” Shumard said.

A grant technicality forced a transfer of the deed from the Sterling Industrial Development Commission to the city. SIDC bought the property for $1,000 in 2009, before the grant funding became available, and HUD didn’t recognize the commission as a city entity for grant purposes. The transfer was made official at the April 14 commission meeting.

Similar challenges exist with two other properties acquired through the program.

Properties at East 10th Street and Sixth Avenue, and at Broadway and Fourth Street have lots that are too small to build on again. The adjoining properties at both sites are rentals and the city hopes the landlords could use the extra green space in an area where it is at a premium.

“We are negotiating with the property owners,” Wolber said. “These buildings have no green space, and it offers something for recreational use.”

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