Arnold group sees hope in property sales
Gene Rosati of Arnold wants to find out if the opposite of the broken-window theory also is true.
If people see improvements in the homes, businesses and yards in their neighborhoods, he hopes they will be encouraged to improve their own properties.
“I want people to see what can be,” said Rosati, a member of the Arnold Redevelopment Authority. “Then maybe they'll take a little pride not only in their own buildings, but in the city, too.”
He already has seen plenty of evidence of the broken-window theory in town: “When you have a dilapidated building in the middle of a neighborhood, that's the start of a cancer.”
To fight the blight, the authority is offering a fire sale of 40 city-owned properties in hopes that new owners will landscape the lots, fix the buildings and maybe even build new homes or businesses.
The vast majority of the available properties are empty lots on Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues — land on which deteriorated, sometimes fire-damaged buildings have been torn down.
Many are in residential blocks, but there is some commercial land available.
There is the triple lot at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 17th Street, which once was the site of the historic Zillmer Building that city officials unsuccessfully tried to turn into a performing arts center named for the late Johnny Costa.
On the opposite end of the block are four empty lots at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 18th Street. The Edna Hotel occupied the land until it was destroyed by fire in 1998 and demolished in 2000.
In the middle of the 1700 block is the city's lone commercial building available for purchase, the former Ar-Den bar at 1721 Fifth Ave.
Rosati acknowledged the building likely would need considerable work, but he thinks it can be restored.
“For a small company that wants to start a business, they could purchase that building very reasonably,” Rosati said. “Put in a business, maybe have offices or apartments upstairs.
“Those would be three excellent opportunities for businesses,” Rosati said of the Fifth Avenue properties. “You'd need some foresight, some plan — some vision for the future.”
A block down, at 1621 Fifth Ave., is the vacant site of the former Orpy's Lounge, which was shut down as a nuisance bar before it was damaged by fire in 2005.
At least four houses also are available.
Rosati said a few may need to be razed, but at least two — a duplex at 1906 Victoria Ave. and the front house at 1736 Constitution Blvd. — are habitable with some renovation work.
The authority has been offering tours of those two houses to interested buyers. Several proposals already have been submitted for them, though the authority has not acted on them.
Rosati said the authority will carefully review proposals and is not bound to accept the highest offer.
They want detailed plans for the properties to ensure they won't become blighted again.
“We can pick and choose,” Rosati said. “We want it to be an improvement for Arnold. As long as they have a plan that benefits the city, we'll work with them.”
At the same time, they are trying to recoup as much money as possible, given the city bought many of the properties at tax sales and paid to demolish the structures. The properties are tax-exempt while the city owns them.
The money from sales will be split between the authority and the city, with the authority receiving a 20 percent share.
A few vacant lots already sold for about $5,000. Bethlehem Temple Faith Church bought a Third Avenue lot to use as a parking lot, and Marcus Hoak of Arnold bought a Fourth Avenue lot to expand the yard of his neighboring rental property.
“I grew up in Arnold. I love the town. I've lived here all but five years of my life,” said Rosati. “It will never come back to what it was. We don't have the industry to support the jobs. But I think it can be greatly improved from what it is now.
“I haven't given up on it yet.”
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.