WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Battling blight is a costly issue for so many cities.
Abandoned properties can devalue neighborhoods and even pose a public health risk. But one local city is stepping up efforts to rehabilitate or remove the blight.
The battle of the blight took center stage Wednesday along West Ross Street. The target? A building commonly referred to as the “Vine House”.
The noise of heavy equipment and a crumbling building at 64 West Ross Street is considered the sound of serious progress. The vacant apartment building had long been an eyesore in this neighborhood where some Wilkes University students live.
“So, I’ve been here for three years. This house has always looked so dilapidated. There were vines all over it. No one took care of it,” Wilkes University junior Taylor Brueningsen said.
“Honestly, it was kind of hard to notice it as a house. It was covered in vines, a lot of greenery. You definitely could tell that no one had lived there for awhile,” Wilkes University junior Hope Harrington said.
The city of Wilkes-Barre put together a hit list in its blight fight — and this building was near the top.
“It was totally encompassed in vines. You couldn’t even tell what color the house was. It’s been that way for a long time,” Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown said.
Mayor Brown feared someone could end up getting hurt… or worse.
“I was getting reports that there were some homeless people that were there or some children in there,” Mayor Brown said.
So, the city used funds from its Office of Economic and Community Development budget to issue an emergency demolition contract to Brdaric Excavating.
“This house was severely deteriorated and in horrible condition,” said Brdaric Excavating president John Brdaric III.
Brdaric operated the excavator, maneuvering it between two other buildings.
“It makes it a challenge when it’s close like this to neighboring structures and in such condition they’re under control,” Brdaric III said.
A large tarp protected one of those buildings as the demolition crew toppled the final side of the structure.
“I think it’s good that they’re taking down something that’s not being used and hopefully they’re going to replace it with something that will be used,” Harrington said.
The city doesn’t own the property but Mayor Brown says once the rubble is removed in the coming days, he plans to have the property seeded.
Mayor Brown says the city’s blight remediation program will move onto Sambourne Street next week to demolish another problem property.