Land bank renovation project unveiled in East Liverpool

Morning Journal/Jo Ann Bobby-Gilbert Karlie Craig, 4, shows Robert Richey of the county land bank program something on a cell phone at her new home in East Liverpool, which was rehabilitated through the program.

EAST LIVERPOOL — While the program sponsored by the county land bank committee has been successful in demolishing many unsightly and unsafe residences in the city, it also has made it possible for some unused properties to gain new life.

One such property was unveiled this week on Lincoln Avenue, where work has been finished and a new family has moved into a rehabilitated home that otherwise would have been razed.

The stone home in the 700 block was built in 1927 and had been in tax foreclosure, according to Robert Richey of the county Department of Development, which oversees the land bank program. No one opted to purchase the property at a sheriff’s sale, and it was turned over to the land bank for demolition.

However, city Councilman Ernest Peachey, who is also the owner of several rental properties in the city, saw an opportunity with the home and applied to take it on as a rehab project.

Richey said the city Planning Department must first give its approval for such properties to be rehabilitated, and the individual taking on the project must meet certain criteria, such as not having any tax infractions with the city and having the resources to undertake such a rehab project.

The land bank committee provides a list of what must be accomplished to make the property inhabitable, with a specific timeline given in which to complete the work.

A purchase price for the property is “worked up” by deducting the amount of resources spent on the rehab project from the value placed on the property by the county auditor, with the land bank then figuring a percentage based on the property’s intended use: 20 percent if it is for the individual’s private home; 30 percent if a rental and 40 percent if it is being rehabbed to sell.

In the case of the Lincoln Avenue home, the property was valued at $29,700, with Peachey spending $23,750 in repairs, for a balance of $5,950, with the land bank assessing 30 percent since it is being used as a rental, leaving a final purchase price for Peachey of $1,785.

Peachey said it took about a year to do the repairs, which included some roof work, major repairs to the interior walls, floors, plumbing and electrical systems.

He was able to retain the decorative original windows, although the panes of glass had to be replaced.

While working on the house, Peachey said he has learned from an older neighbor that its stone exterior — unusual in a neighborhood filled with frame homes — was designed by the builder, a mason who also built two others like it, one on Avondale Street and one in LaCroft.

“A doctor lived in it at one time,” Peachey said he was told.

The interior has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, a working stone fireplace, formal dining room and galley kitchen, with all original wood floors.

The city was required to inspect the home prior to it being rented, according to Richey.

The couple now living in the home has four children and, according to the mother, moved from a housing project in Pennsylvania to their first single-family home.

With a smile on her face, she said they are looking forward to Christmas, when they can have a colorful tree and stockings hung on the fireplace in the historic living room.

Richey said there are currently eight such rehabilitation projects under way in the city through the land bank program.

During a recent city council meeting, Richey reported the land bank program had spent nearly $1 million to date in East Liverpool alone on its projects.