NEW BRITAIN - After a major flap last year over the condition of the North Oak neighborhood, city officials are cleaning up the area with enforcement and demolitions of blighted properties.
In the next few weeks, the city expects to demolish a former bakery on Lawlor Street that has been an eyesore for years and possibly a blighted Gilbert Street building, said Sergio Lupo, the city’s director of public health.
“The city took possession of it last week,” Lupo said of the Lawlor Street building. “We went out there and looked at what needs to be done to secure it. There are openings that need to be secured and some debris on the property, but it will be scheduled to be torn down in a few weeks.”
The property has been in limbo for decades as the city and the former owners, Anne and Joseph Howard, tussled over the cost of rehabbing or tearing down the building. After months of stalled attempts and violation warnings, the city took control of the property last week to start the process of taking the building down. The city is hoping to do the same to the residential building at 25 Gilbert St., which has also sat fallow for years.
“We are acquiring that property (25 Gilbert St.) and will do an evaluation and make a determination on what needs to be done,” Lupo said. “If we decide to tear it down, we’ll put a request for bids for both to get the job done cheaper.”
A third building at 116 West St. that was nearly destroyed in an extensive fire two years ago has been sold and will be rehabilitated by the new owner, Lupo said. The shell of the building is structurally sound but the roof is gone and neighbors have repeatedly complained about the property since the fire occurred during a blinding snowstorm in early 2016 that caused residents to jump from the upper floors as the blaze intensified.
The same company that bought 116 West St. is also renovating 132 Oak St., another residential building that burned in a fire but was never fixed. Both properties will be returned to their status as multi-family housing when the work is done, Lupo said.
Lupo’s department has been working for months to get the properties renovated or torn down after North Oak Revitalization Zone members and residents demanded help in late November with cleaning up the neighborhood which has the largest concentration of blight in the city.
“We’re glad to see the city is taking us seriously and working on the blight issues,” said North Oak NRZ president Marie Bachand. “We’re working with the city and keeping them accountable. I feel we have a good working relationship. They bring updates to our monthly meetings and respond when we tell them of new issues.”
The city is also working with the owners of 344 Allen St., a property also burned in a fire, the owners of a property at the intersection of West Street and Oak Street that has a dilapidated building that needs to be torn down, and other blighted properties in the Arch Street NRZ area, including 51 Prospect St., which was gutted by a fire but can be rehabilitated.
“Some of these take time to accomplish,” Lupo said. “We are moving forward slowly, but we are moving forward.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.