Historic houses in Kent soon to be demolished


This 615 Crain Ave. property owned by Sharie Meduri could be one of several Kent homes selected to be demolished, some dating back to the 1940s, which have been deemed “unfit for human habitation”. Photo by Jenna Watson.

Elizabeth Blosfield

Kent’s Historical Society boasts of the city’s history, some of which still remains in its many homes constructed more than 50 years ago. However, some of these houses might not remain standing for long.

City council recently approved a proposal to demolish several Kent homes, some dating back to the 1940s, which have been deemed “unfit for human habitation,” community development director Bridget Susel said.

“The houses still technically have owners,” she said, “but the owners have abandoned them and left them in a state of disrepair.”

Susel said all of these properties have been left vacant for more than two years and are considered nuisance properties within the community because of their condition.

“Some of the houses look nice in the pictures, but there are internal problems within the houses that cause safety hazards and lower the value of surrounding properties,” Susel said.

In some cases, the owners are deceased, and relatives are not interested in the properties. In other cases, the owners simply do not want them, Susel said.

“The owner can still take ownership and has the ability to sell the property, but the property cannot be left abandoned with no one taking care of it,” Susel said.

The statewide Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program will provide reimbursement for the cost of demolition once complete, but in the meantime, Susel said the owners are kept responsible.

“The city is not taking ownership,” she said. “We are simply making a court order to have these houses demolished, and the owner will be charged with the cost of demolition.”

When city council took the same action against blighted properties in 2010, Susel said these costs ranged anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000 depending on the condition of the property and the work that went into removing it.

Because of these costs, she said many residents have been pushed to improve their homes that were originally on the demolition list and bring them up to the standards of the Housing Maintenance Code.

So far, two homes have been improved significantly, and others have been purchased and renovated.

Council Ward 6 Representative Tracy Wallach said she voted against the motion to demolish these homes.

“I always like to go for renovation,” she said. “If I had the money to do it, I would, but, unfortunately, I don’t.”

If people in the community are interested in buying and renovating the homes, “we would be happy to see that happen,” Susel said.

However, money is a factor in renovating most of these homes because of their poor condition. Susel said in a city council meeting that the grant program “pushed for renovation,” but it was “cost-prohibitive for some as they are past the tipping point.”

Susel said some owners have opted for voluntary demolition so the cost of demolition will not be added as a lien to the property. However, she explains that “most of the owners have not been responsive to the city’s orders, and everything is still tied up in court.”

This is the case with the property on 615 Crain Ave., which owner Sharie Meduri says she would like to repair.

“We have been down this road before with the owner,” Susel explained in a city council meeting. “She can present her situation in court, but the city’s position, unless a certificate of occupancy is issued, is that the house cannot continue to stand.”

Council Ward 4 Representative John Kuhar, who abstained from the motion to demolish these homes, disagrees and said he would like to see the Crain Avenue house remain standing.

“I felt that the structure itself was a piece of Kent,” Kuhar said. “It’s a nice-looking structure, and there should be some better way to resolve it than just to knock it down. It’s a shame to waste that structure and not restore it.”

The home, built in 1940, is listed in poor condition and has accumulated almost $26,000 in taxes.

A pre-trial between the city of Kent and homeowner Meduri will take place Friday at 10 a.m., and attorneys will decide whether to proceed with the trial, which is scheduled for Oct. 29 at 1:15 p.m.

Contact Elizabeth Blosfield at [email protected].